Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Great Kindle Rip-Off ** Updated **

When Kindle first came out, I jumped in immediately, loving the simplicity and convenience of electronic reading. And main stream books were going for $9.99, which was well below the cost of a hardcover and even slightly below the cost of a softcover.

But the publishers were just baiting us … slowly but surely, the prices crept up. When they hit $14.99 for the Kindle edition, I decided to explore alternative authors and I found that there are many authors who publish interesting and amusing novels for a fraction of the cost of main-stream authors’ works.

I noticed today that my favourite series – Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch – has a new entry. So I took a look at the cost and was flabbergasted that the cost is now $18.99 in Canada, which is less than 4 dollars cheaper than the hardcover and is actually more expensive than the softcover.


You have to remember that Kindle editions cost NOTHING in materials, so the profit margins are astronomical when compared with books. I have read lately that the Kindle format is waning in popularity, and you need only look at the above to see why.

I have purchased something like 300 or 400 books on Kindle and I still believe in the format. But I will not be buying or reading the new Harry Bosch novel. I have so much I could be reading for between $0 and $5 that these main stream authors can go “read” themselves … if you get my drift.

Update 4 Jan 2017 -- The previous book in the series is also one I have not read, and it went on sale after Christmas for $2.99 cad. That's more like it and I purchased it immediately. So the trick with Kindle and best-selling authors is to buy their stuff a year later ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Populism … It is here now, but where does it lead? *Updated Feb 2019*

Update 17 Feb 2019: It is far worse than I expected. I wonder how many saw coming the incredible chaos and indiscriminate flouting of all rules and norms (legislative and judicial). And also the spread to so many other nations.

Speaking of the spread … Canada is following similar tendencies to the rest of the world with the right wing (most of whom sound like alt right these days) unabashedly and even brazenly spouting their brand of racist and borderline fascist ideologies. The weaponization of social media is pretty much complete with all the “PROUD” sites (and similar) spouting alternate facts and outright lies to destroy Liberal politicians. It’s working (as the province of Ontario knows only too well).

In my opinion (and it is just that), history will judge Facebook and the like as a shameful scar on this decade.

Now … back to the original post …

Quite a few people chose to ignore the 2016 election in the USA or to cast waste their votes on those who had no chance. They then had the pleasure (?) of watching a populist eek out a narrow victory that was sealed by 3 swing states with margins of victory totaling fewer votes than a single alternate candidate garnered. (Actually, in two of them this is true, but in one of them the winner got a margin a bit higher than the leading alternate’s vote count). And all of this while losing the popular vote by a rather spectacular 3,000,000+ votes overall.

In other words, the victory was gifted by those who wasted their votes or held them back. (Note: The reasons are varied and nuanced, but the final result does come down to this simple act repeated many times.)

Since then, they have no doubt enjoyed watching the populist turn into a raging elitist and appoint a cabinet of billionaires with agendas. All this while ignoring the actual job in favor of pursuing adulation in rallies, minor forms of revenge (which will obviously escalate once power is fully assumed), blatant profiteering, and departmental agendas that will set the country back by a half century.

Having accomplished what they probably did not set out to do, they should now read the linked article to see the future fun (?) their collective choice may have queued up for their country. This is apparently how stories like 1984 can begin, and don’t think it cannot happen anywhere on earth because democracies have fallen many times in the past, and the very recent past in this case.


Vincent Van Gogh

Are you one of those who is fascinated by Van Gogh and his famous ear? It's quite the story, and here is a site that is all things Vincent Van Gogh. Articles, images of his works ... the lot.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy to be published again in the Ottawa Citizen …

Thanks go to Robbi Hay, editor of the Ourtown section of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, for using my work once again.


Get your copy tomorrow (Thursday, 1 Dec) to see what’s shaking in our city and environs over the next week and beyond … the holiday season is approaching and we can all use the break :-)

By the way … I shot these squirrels at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden with my micro-four-thirds bodies and lenses.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Panasonic G6, G7 and GX85 Shootout in Low Light at 12800 ISO

I’ll be picking up the G85 shortly and selling off the G6 and the G7, since I am again consolidating down to a small set of cameras. Before I do that, though, I would like to see how different they really are at high ISO. I chose 12800 because that really stretches a sensor and is what you need to shoot in really dark venues.

This might actually be a little silly when you consider the size of the sensors, but I’ve never been shy about capturing images in the dark at extreme ISOs. I’d rather get one decent image in an evening than not try. And yes, I could just bounce a flash, but these three are all superb at lower ISOs, so there is little point in that exercise.

I crafted an animated GIF and I think it is clear that the G6 is the worst by quite a bit, yet not completely horrible. I think the G6 sensor – which is the most refined version of the GH2 sensor ever shipped in a camera – is amazing in good light and adequate in low light. Shadows are where it suffers, but nothing like the blue channel poison of the old GH2. It was a just horrid in shadows.

The G7, on the other hand, is much cleaner. The shadows are quite clean and the brighter areas (this is pretty low light) are very clean for such an elevated ISO.

The GX85 looks very similar to the G7. I think the G7 eeks out a slight victory, but it is hard to really see a difference, and the G7 should be very slightly softer, owing to its AA filter.

Anyway … you be the judge.


Note: Same settings in camera, same settings in Lightroom.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Super Moon

That great big glorious shining ball in the sky today is apparently a Super Moon. It is supposed to be the brightest moon we’ve had in 70 years.

Although I cannot confirm that for obvious reasons, I can confirm that the sky is very brightly lit tonight.

We were blessed today with a gloriously clear day and that has carried on into the evening. So here is my Super Moon image, shot on tripod with the Panasonic GX85 and Tamron 500mm Mirror lens. Manual focus and pretty close to a Luney 11 exposure, mine being 1/160s at f8 and 100 ISO.

I processed it in Lightroom along these lines …

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pot Shops Draw the Ire of Local Politicians and Residents

Apparently, Ottawa has entrepreneurs who would like to start selling Cannabis products about 6 months ahead of full recreational legalization in Canada. Since this has been happening in Vancouver forever, it is not something that should surprise anyone. And since it has been legal for people for whom Cannabis products are proscribe for pain, anxiety and several other ailments, it is a welcome relief from the “drug deal on a corner” problem that these people have.

Yet we have the usual bandwagon of politicians and residents who are coming out against the proliferation of such dispensaries, using logic worthy of a young child. For example, a city councilor (presumably a fully-grown person) says that he is not happy with this “cowboy-pirate-bandit approach that these people are taking”.

Here is the article on cbc.ca, and do note the misspelling of councilor … sigh. Click the picture to read the full article.


My thoughts:

Several people are up on their high horse, trying to mobilize the forces of "truth and light" (a.k.a. "luddites from the 50s") to fight a local dispensary. They cite "lollipops" and "cookies" and names like "Midnight Kush" and then close with this iron-clad, piercing analysis:

To us, it seems like it's marketed directly to youth and it's an effort to try to target our kids ultimately, which we're very concerned about, said Bergman.

As in "we think they are attacking our kids with their poison and we are concerned that this will touch off the infamous Reefer Madness that has destroyed so many otherwise good young kids."

I hope that the sarcasm was apparent in that last comment.

This appears to be some whiny parents and a sympathetic (pandering?) councilor who would say nothing at all about an LCBO (liquor store, for those not from Ontario) popping up in the same place. We had one for a decade that was a block from one elementary school and a couple of blocks from another (the one that my youngest went to).

These people need some perspective.

  • We make young people show ID for cigarettes.
  • Young people would not get 10 feet in an LCBO unless escorted by a parent.
  • And young people would not be served cannabis products without proper ID *and* papers showing they were legal. Dispensary owners do not want to go to jail, and without asking for papers (I know several people who are medically licensed) they are just drug dealers.

My point being that these very concerned people should fear what is really a danger to their kids. Their own parenting, for starters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Amazon seller sleaze …


I was shocked by the excellent used price on the Nikon D7100 until I saw the name of the seller. It took a few moments to parse out what the seller has done … named his company “New item ***** 100% Positive” …

That takes gall of a level that may never have been seen on the planet Smile

He is simultaneously trying to convince the terminally naïve that the item is new (despite the condition already stated), that the seller has a 5 star rating (despite the Just Launched notification), and that he has 100% positive feedback (again, despite the Just Launched notification.) This is as full of shit as a seller can be.

I wonder if anyone will fall for such an obvious scam?

Friday, September 9, 2016

How to Lose Weight

The answer, of course, is that you need to change your lifestyle in one way or another. Somehow, you need to incorporate a healthier amount of activity and appropriate amounts and quality of food.

It’s not magic.

I actually wrote this short (and some would say utterly useless so far Smile) piece to introduce you to an excellent article that pretty much sums up the difficulty in getting great on-point advice on how you specifically should lose weight and become a healthier person.

The article is written by Yoni Freedhoff, the founder of the non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute here in Ottawa. Dr. Freedhoff is an obesity expert if ever there was one.

The title says it all … click through to read it …

No Diet Works For Everyone and Every Diet Works For Someone

Grammar and sentence structure … they matter …

There is a pretty interesting article about HPE – a company apparently known for its COBOL support (a language with which I have a lot of experience from my early career) – spinning out its software assets and simultaneously embracing a major Linux distribution – SUSE. That article is here, if you are interested …


But I noticed a paragraph that was so poorly structured, it took me three reads to make sense of what the author was trying to convey.

With Canonical Ubuntu, the top cloud Linux, and Red Hat, the leading server Linux, SUSE, which is also a major enterprise Linux player and a powerhouse in mainframe Linux, is one of the three biggest Linux powers.

There are two major issues with that sentence, each of which harms readability. The first is the passive tone, which is done by reversing the thought and starting with some passive description to make the point. The second is several parenthetical asides separated only by commas, as if you are reading a list. It’s a brutal read.

Straightening it out requires that the thought be made active in tone, and that the parenthetical passages be isolated with either parentheses or dashes. In fact, separating the the main statement from the enumeration of the other players with two sentences is even better.

Something like this:

SUSE, a major enterprise player, is a powerhouse in mainframe Linux and one of the three biggest Linux powers. The others are Canonical Ubuntu – the top cloud Linux, and Red Hatthe leading server Linux.

Don’t be afraid of active language or short sentences. They will improve your writing dramatically. (Note to self – you too!)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Published in the Ottawa Citizen this Thursday 4 August

Once again I must thank Robbi Hay, editor of the Ourtown section of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, for including my work as the banner for her section this week.

Grab a copy of the Citizen on Thursday to see what’s happening in these wonderful dog days of August …


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kanata Mazda has epic fail …

I bought my Mazda 3 from Kanata Mazda in July of 2011, which means that it is 5 years old this month. They were sending me reminders for service for years, but that stopped about 2 years ago. The reason I know that is that I finally realized that I had not serviced the car in a long time and took it in. They said it had been two years, which made sense, given that they stopped reminding me.

So … the agreed to range of pad wear seems to start around 48000 km, and my car is approaching 50000, so it makes sense that the brake pads would be inspected. Especially when you consider that you can see the pads through the wheels without taking the wheels off.

They looked at all 4 tires, because they marked them all as 5/32 remaining tread. They also mentioned that I had a nail in the passenger rear tire, which accounted for the slow leak I experienced last year all summer. Yet they did not check the brakes.

I know this for two reasons:

1) They marked that it was not needed:

_1010311-4592 x 3448-160731-DMC-GX85-LUMIX G VARIO 12-32-F3.5-5.6

2) The breaks were metal on metal with 4 weeks, wrecking my rotors and forcing me to  do an emergency brake pad replacement:

_1010304-4592 x 3448-160731-DMC-GX85-LUMIX G VARIO 12-32-F3.5-5.6

So what could they possibly have been thinking? The car has almost 50k on it and they have not seen it in 2 years. So ignore the brakes?

I have no idea how an organization can display such a disregard for basic procedure that takes almost zero time and has a direct bearing on safety. Sheer incompetence perhaps?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Amazon – et tu with the reinterpretation of “on time” ? **updated**

Yesterday I railed against Home Depot’s misleading web site.

Today, I am awaiting a shipment of coffee from Amazon using Prime’s two day guaranteed shipping. This, of course, is really three business days, since they need to actually ship the order.

I placed the order on Friday, and a lay-interpretation of “two day shipping” would suggest Sunday delivery. But shippers take weekends off (even if you choose express, time only counts in terms of business days.) So the lay person would think Tuesday instead. The second business day from Friday.

But no, the Amazon interpretation is that you get 24 hours to ship, making Wednesday the “on time” two day delivery. That is actually 6 days from the date of order, but who’s counting :-)

And then there is the Thursday delivery. Amazon actually split the consignment (order) into two separate shipments. The second one being listed as due Thursday, the 4th business day, which in my estimation is 3 day shipping and thus not “on time” in Prime terms.

Yet …


Amazon does work in mysterious ways … but this is an area where the mystery is how they manage to get on time from 3 days?

Here is another example …


Again … shipping today, arriving 3 days from now. And that’s considered “on time” …

To reiterate: I pay for Prime and I generally order items that offer Prime 2-Day shipping. So why does 3 day shipping now qualify as “on time”? Anyone? Amazon?

** Update: Everything arrived on time and within the Prime commitment. As in Wednesday, in two days. So this is really about Amazon either not interfacing correctly with their couriers, or rewriting the rule book just in case.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Home Depot Web Site – Sleazy “summarization” of reviews to trick you into buying …

I have been contemplating a pressure washer for my driveway, garage, patio, furniture, cars … the usual.

I have been looking at Canadian Tire’s selection and they seem to have some decent units with good reviews. But one of the better brands is carried by Home Depot, Generac. Unfortunately, that one is online only, so I can’t get it any time soon. I read that they market a Ryobi as a rebadged generic brand of some sort, so I thought I’d check that one out. I like Ryobi tools generally … a decent value for money when on sale at least.

So I saw this unit that has 5 stars and 3 ratings … it looked *very* promising. Lots of power (2700psi) and that many positive ratings for a good price is kind of a no brainer. Here it is in the grid of possibilities:


And when you click through, the positives keep coming …


So what’s not to love?

Well, the truth, for one.

Click on the stars to see the actual reviews and you get this …



That’s right … at the top of the web page, they stubbornly report 3 reviews and 5 stars. But the detail section shows 7 reviews and only 3.3 stars. The bottom 3 reviews average 1.33 stars!

Seems kind of sleazy, don’t you think?

Note: I don’t think Home Depot are actually at fault. I think their web development team is one of the least competent I have ever seen. Their web site almost never works in Chrome. It was failing for something like 7 months and I complained several times to them. Eventually, it seemed to work (about a month ago). But today it fails to work again.

Their mechanism for showing you where things are in stock is utter nonsense. If you type in your postal code and the item is not in stock, they indicate this by doing absolutely nothing. No message, no display of nearby stores (which should show not in stock) … nothing at all. There are many stores who do this correctly, but this team stubbornly refuses to do things competently and seemingly always has.

Probably a systemic cultural thing and with their pattern of poor UI decisions and simply broken browser compatibility it should surprise no one that they cannot get the reviews section right. The problem, though, is that the reviews section is used to incentivize people to buy. And they are misleading the buyers by reporting higher quality reports than actually exist. Cherry-picking as it were.

I think they should be rethinking the liar liar part of their online product display … it really does not behoove them to trick people into buying what sounds like an “iffy” product …

Meanwhile, don’t trust their site. Always click through to products and frankly, you’d be better searching the web for more trustworthy reviews and stores with customer reviews that aren’t so poorly managed.

Sears Kenmore … they used to last forever …

I bought a brand new stove in 2011 when we remodeled the kitchen. Since I’d had Kenmore washers and stoves before, I presumed that I would get the usual 15 years of problem-free service.

So I was stunned when Nick opened the door a few minutes ago and it let go at one end!


5 years of service?

Not what they once were it seems …

P1010482-3448 x 4592-160717-DMC-G7-OLYMPUS M.45mm F1.8

** Update ** I was able to reattach the handle. We’ll see how long that lasts. The stainless steel version of these stoves has thicker panels and so the screws are not quite long enough to reliably hold on over time. But this one should be fine. Perhaps it just worked its way loose over time. But how could the design team have missed such an obviously dangerous failure point? Anyway … I have a functioning stove again for now.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Panasonic GX85 vs G7 vs G6 with OEM vs Aftermarket Batteries – Video Recording Time Test ** Updated **

I’ve done similar tests in the past and the results showed decent recording times on the GM1. I tried the OEM and two different after market batteries for that test and the results can be summarized as:

Battery Recording Time
Lumix 1:48
DSTE 1:32
Fosmon 1:53

I was pretty surprised that the small battery in the GM1 could actually approach 2 hours on a single charge and that an aftermarket battery could beat the OEM Lumix battery.

So when I received the GX85 and the G7, I thought I should pit them against each other with OEM and aftermarket batteries as well.

P1010480-4592 x 3448-160716-DMC-G7-OLYMPUS M.45mm F1.8

Bigger ones on the left are G7. Interesting that the Lumix battery advertises 1200mAh while the Wasabi states 1400mAh. The times are 48m apart, suggesting that the Wasabi is hysterically optimistic. The GX85 DSTE is more exaggerated. Such is life with aftermarket batteries.

** Update ** I’ve tested the G6 as well.

The times are interesting …


Camera Battery Recording Time
G6 Lumix 2:47:22
  Wasabi 1:56:27
G7 Lumix 2:57:26
  Wasabi 2:09:20
GX85 Lumix 2:11:31
  DSTE 1:45:16*

* its first full charge after purchase

The larger batteries in these cameras are outstripping the GM1, except for the DSTE, which was charged for the first time. My understanding is that lithium ion batteries maximize their capacity after a few cycles. So I suppose I will need to use this battery exclusively for a while so that I can update the time later on.

Meanwhile, it is impressive that even a fresh aftermarket battery can do over 2 hours on one charge.

The G7 beats the G6 with 6% longer life on the Lumix battery and 11% longer on the Wasabi. The new processor or other circuitry or perhaps the LCD in the G7 appear to be slightly more efficient. The GX85 is behind both, but the smaller battery can be considered the primary factor for that.

Note that these are AVCHD at 24fps 1080p.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

GX85 – SD card in backwards and wonderful bounce flash …

A couple of observations …

SD Card

The SD card in pretty much all the Panasonics went in facing away from you with the camera in hand. That is, the label faces forward in the same direction as the lens. I have never seen this be different and I just confirmed it with the G6 and G7 just to be sure.

But the GX85 goes in facing in the same direction as the rear of the camera, which means you see it as you hold the camera upside down to insert the card. This seems like an unnecessary and gratuitous change, and confirms the silo / stovepipe development and design teams at Panasonic. Or maybe it was a brain fart that stuck. Minor, but silly.

Bounce Flash

I always liked the GF3 and GX1 bounce flashes. These things were mounted on some sort of spider legs that allowed them to tilt quite dramatically backwards. If you went too far, the flash would not fire, but if you held it just right, the flash would fire to the ceiling and you could get a pretty nice result. I even made a video showing how it worked on the GX1:

The production values are pretty low with that video, but the content is spot on.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the tweaks on the GX85 to this feature. The folding flash mount works similarly, but seems somehow sturdier and seems to have fewer fold points, although that may be an illusion. But what is really great is that you can fold it back all the way and gently pin it to the upright location and it will fire up at a slightly forward angle.

This makes it pretty easy to shoot bounce flash and the results are excellent. A warning though … the flash is tiny, so you should raise ISO pretty quickly, especially if you are not right on top of your subject. The extra distance will really weaken the flash.

On the other hand, the GX85 sensor is superb and lifting the result a stop or two results in a perfectly usable image once processed in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Here are a couple of images to clarify the value of shooting bounce flash with the built in. They are pictures of our Degu resting on his platform and there are cage bars in the way. A worst case scenario.

Straight On

The issues are obvious … red eye is prominent (although not all that red on this animal’s retina), shadows are harsh, light is very flat looking. All in all, yuck.

Since the cage top is open with bars, the light from a bounce should be able to get through and light the animal fairly evenly.


These were shot moments apart. Need I elaborate on how much better this looks? You can shoot legit animal portraits with bounce flash from a built in, assuming that you are not bothered too much by higher ISOs. I regularly shoot 3200 on these sensors and that does not bother me at all. You can, of course, limit ISO to 800 and use a fast lens. These two images self-selected to 1600 ISO, which would make sense for bounced flash in a dark room.

So if you have the GX85, consider adding this to your arsenal of tricks when out and about without an external flash.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

GX85 – The Arrival

I had what I like to call a “great selloff” of camera gear in order to get the Panasonic GX85, a body with a wonderful set of features and with a form factor that I have enjoyed in the past with the GX1.

I sold the GF3 for 60 bucks (the one I dropped in Stockholm with aftermarket batteries and charger so it had little real value), the E-PM2 for a couple hundred, and the GM1 with the excellent 12-32 kit lens for about 490 or something like that. I also sold the Oberwerk Astronomical Binoculars for about 180, so that brought me enough to handle most of the cost of the GX85.

I order it yesterday around noon from The Camera Store in Alberta, famous for their excellent test video series. They shipped Purolator and it arrived today at noon, blowing my mind.

So I popped out for a few minutes at lunch and then again after work to try it out with the 100-300 lens on the monopod. I wanted to see whether they were a decent match, and I can say unequivocally that they are. The images are all excellent and there was no shutter shock style blurring present. This is an issue with the G7 if you are not careful, so I think the GX85 is my new long lens camera.

So … my first impressions.

  • Excellent form factor. Feels nice in the hand and reminds me a lot of the GX1.
  • Poor EVF. A real step down from the G5 through G7. I am getting used to it, but they should not have used this one when the one in the G7 seems so much better. Panasonic has a very bad habit of allowing too much independence between teams, and some of them make really dumb decisions on features.
  • Good grip. It feels great in my hands. The grip has a sharp(ish) edge to it so despite not being all that deep, I can grip it very well.
  • Dumb placement of on/off switch. Honestly could not imagine a worse choice. Another brain fart for team GX85. However, I will eventually get used to it.
  • Lovely LCD. The tilt is nice and it fits flush to the body. You would never know it tilted.
  • Love the monochrome EVF display option. Supposedly for manual focus clarity, but I like the clarity in all cases.
  • Has some heft. Feels about the size of the GX1, which is not small. Very well built IMO.
  • The flash is magnificent as it retains the classic GF / GX ability to be bounced. Why can the G series not do that? (More team brain farts one supposes.)
  • The shutter is fantastic. The new solenoid based shutter is quick and quiet while stilling sounding real. Nicely done.
  • Image quality is excellent. The lack of AA filter is not blindingly obvious, but the images are very sharp.
  • Kit lens sucks. Had I known it was so cheaply made, I would have kept the GM1 kit and then sold the GM1 with the GX85 lens. I liked the real one that came with the GM1. All that said, this lens seems very sharp.
  • No charger included – pathetic. On the other hand, I like the ability to charge in camera over night. But I would rather have had the charger.

All in all, I can say that I am very pleased. Handles well, even with big lenses. Feels nice in hand and shoots great.

I am very glad so far that I grabbed the GX85 to go with the G7 as my main travel kit. The G6 will back them up for a while in cases where I want to have a third angle in video.

One more thing … the GX85 looks really nice in black. Very modern.

Some samples of its images … just quick shots, nothing very exciting. They begin after the last Pug image with the shot of two yellow daisies:


The bee close ups near the end (as of this writing) on the small purple (or so I am told) flowers are severe crops.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Published in the Ottawa Citizen Newspaper Tomorrow

Thanks again go to Robbi Hay, editor of the Ottawa Citizen Ourtown section, for using one of my images again as the heading. This comes out tomorrow, Thursday the 7th of July. Grab the paper to see everything cool that is happening in Ottawa for the next few weeks …


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Evernote … time to say goodbye …

Evernote is an absolutely great note-taking service and application.

Or at least it was once …

You see, they have decided to push the freeloaders away and extort encourage us free users to “upgrade” to the premium service. Now, had they ever managed to do a premium feature that was worth the money, that might have worked.

But no, they did not. All the really useful features were already available for free.

So some genius at Evernote realized that the only way to get some of us to go over to premium was to start taking the really useful features away.

Some months ago they remove direct email forwarding to Evernote. That really stung, but I can always use Office integration and so it is manageable.

But today … wow … they just announced that in a few weeks they will restrict the free service to two devices, period. Evernote’s biggest strength is ubiquity across all devices and platforms. And they are now bring that into the paid service.

It makes sense. They obvious have a weak product management team and possibly weak development, so they are taking things that have worked forever and simply shutting us off.

Well, screw that.

I’ll be moving to OneNote rather than pay for what I already had for years. What a joke …


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Quicken Cash Manager 2016 – *updated* Painful Process, Finally Working

Remember that post a few weeks ago where Quicken extorted be to buy the next version of Cash Manager in order to continue downloading from my bank?


Well, I finally caved in because (and they know this) I really did not have a choice.

And the install went well enough.

But it turns out that the product will not run. I have to have a Quicken ID, which apparently started in 2014 and was hardened in 2015. I finally created one and successfully authenticated it in email.

But it still won’t run. When trying to log in from the application, I get a vague “something went wrong” error. Googling about leads me to realize that this is very common. Also that Quicken has no email support. You have to phone and only during business hours.

* update *

Technical support on the phone dropped my call after waiting 20m in the queue. The chat session they suggest you start would not do anything and no pop-up warning showed up. So effectively, Quicken technical support does not exist.

The community, on the other hand, does exist. I tried the standard manual and mondo patches they recommend ad nauseum and neither would install on my version. I tried to follow a link to a Canadian version of the patch and it just showed “file not found” …

So I finally posted the exact same question with a lot of bitter vitriol and within less than an hour I was up and running. There is a new Canadian patch that updates the product just fine.



Quicken continues to be the 800 pound gorilla … but the shine is coming off the star. The product has been sold to some management group and who knows what they will do with it. The technical support is weak, although the community did respond with the correct info once I bluntly complained, so kudos for that.

Cash Manager 2016 seems to be running, but I will update this if I have any trouble with the bank downloads. I have seen stories …

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Published as the Father’s Day Edition header for Ourtown in the Ottawa Citizen

Thanks go to Robbi Hay, the editor of the Ourtown section of the Ottawa Citizen.

Pick one up this Thursday to get the scoop on all the goings on around these parts …


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Panasonic G7 – The Arrival *Updated* 30 September 2016

Well, I did it again. Panasonic announced the G85 (sibling to the GX85, which I own alongside the G7) only 4 months after I bought the G7. The G7 is an excellent camera, and I love shooting it. But I now have a decision to make. The GX85 lacks the AA filter and lacks shutter shock (owing to the hybrid shutter), which makes it sharper than the G7 in normal use. Thus, the G85 really appeals to me, despite the unfortunate list price for the new camera. I suppose it will depend on what I can get for the G7 and G6 (which is handy, but feeling a bit superfluous these days.)

So I finally broke down and bought the G7. I’ve been wanting to get a DFD / 4k camera for ages and finally got the opportunity. In fact, I had decided to go for the Nikon D7200 instead, which would have given me the top consumer dSLR out there. But after thinking really hard on the difficulty in using two systems one evening, I decided that the D7200 could wait. Traveling with m4/3 is so much better than travelling with the larger APS-C dSLR kits that I could not consilidate only on dSLRs.

So … I am keeping the D90 for now because of the Sigma 105mm 2.8 Macro, a stunning lens with phenomenal acuity and smooth bokeh. I just can’t relegate that lens to manual focus on the m4/3 bodies.

DSC_0007-4288 x 2848-160523-NIKON D90-
Nikon D90 + Sigma 105mm 2,8 Macro

On the other hand, the G7 turned out to be INCREDIBLE with the 100-300, focusing pretty much instantaneously in great light, and still quickly in low light. The promise of DFD definitely seems to have been met.

P1000214-4592 x 3448-160525-DMC-G7-LUMIX G VARIO 100-300-F4.0-5.6
Panasonic Lumix G7 + Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300 4.0-5.6

So how to I like the G7 so far?

  • DFD – excellent
  • AF on Olympus lenses – fast
  • Body – light and yet accomplished feeling with a much better initial impression than the G6 gave me (I like it now though)
  • Grip – perfect
  • Dual control wheels – amazing – I set the front wheel to exposure compensation in auto modes and that is a joy to use
  • Buttons – I’ll reserve judgement as there are so many and I have not started programming them for my own style
  • Video – TBD
  • Image quality – obviously this thing has a great sensor … I think it is a refined version of the one in the GM1, which itself is excellent … but more later
  • Articulated LCD – as excellent as the one on the G5 and G6 but with seemingly greater clarity

All in all, I have to say that this is a huge upgrade on the G6, which was a pretty big upgrade on the G5, at least for video. So Panasonic might make us wait for the next G, but it is always worth the wait. I’m keeping the G6 as backup and third video cam by the way. The G6 is still stunning in daylight, as are all sensors derived from the venerable GH2 sensor.

P1000250-4592 x 3448-160525-DMC-G7-LUMIX G VARIO 100-300-F4.0-5.6
Panasonic Lumix G7 + Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300 4.0-5.6

Why not an Olympus EM5 II or EM10 II, which bracket the price range of this camera?

Simple answer is video and ergonomics. Not a contest. But … I would love to grab the EM10 II to replace the E-PM2, which has mediocre ergonomics by comparison.  Perhaps one day I will find a used body for a decent price and sell of the E-PM2 (which has equal or superior image quality to the Panasonics.)

P1000260-4592 x 3448-160525-DMC-G7-LUMIX G VARIO 100-300-F4.0-5.6
Panasonic Lumix G7 + Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300 4.0-5.6

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Shameless Quicken



I can still use Quicken … but they are going to stop allowing my version to import from my bank. Another word for this is extortion. As in:

Upgrade within 2 weeks if you want your otherwise perfectly functional software to continue to perform its primary function.

I wonder how that trick is done, since the files adhere to a standard of some sort, but I have no doubt that they have some kind of built in obsolescence such that the software is simply going to stop importing. Like magic … dark magic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Microsoft and Skype – Almost excellent, but for one area of total disaster …


That message comes from the fact that I subscribe to Office and thus get something like 1 free hour of long distance from Microsoft, owners of Skype.

I also pay for the unlimited subscription, but even though I and others have complained about this silly issue, they steadfastly refuse to fix it. All they have to do is look at the fact that I have an unlimited subscription and use it first. No other free subscription is needed.

But they insist on running the short subscription down first and so they invariably drop at least one call per month because they apparently do not have the ability to switch to the other plan in the middle of the call.

And yes, the call just dropped as I was writing this …sigh …

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Seagate 3TB Expansion Drive … disappointing …

I have rather a lot of files on my main image drive … 166,000 and counting …

I have all of these files in one Lightroom catalog and it works surprisingly well. These files are stored on a Seagate SR3000DM001-1CH166 3TB SATA drive. It has been in service for a few years and CrystalDiskMark says it is still reasonable fast (read and write around 160MB/s and 150MB/s respectively.)

I use a 3TB external Seagate Expansion Drive model number 1D7AP3-500 to back this drive up and that has been running for about the same time … it too has been perfectly reliable, until a week or two ago. Since then I have had weird issues, possibly caused by another pair of drives failing and being replaced by yet another Seagate 3TB drive, similar model SR3000DM001–1ER166. That drive is quite a bit faster than its older sibling, reading at 202MB/s consistently. Very impressive. But the transition form my RAID 0 drive as video and scratch disk to this one was really rocky. Somehow in all that the Seagate external drive ended up getting wiped.

But that should not have killed the drive. I simply reformatted it and tried to create a new backup of the pictures drive. But I just could not seem to get anything copied. It would start, and my AllWay Sync back up software would hang. I tried a few times and then reformatted the external drive fully (rather than quick format.) I then tried simply copying the folder from the images drive to the backup … that hung at around 30GB out of 1.6TB. Hmmm …

So I downloaded Seagate’s SEATOOLS and tried that. First, the short drive self test (DST), which never completed in two tries.

Then, the desperate fix all long, which reads every sector and fixes any bad ones it finds.

And that took 10 or 20 minutes to fail outright.

And when you click on the red text, you get:


And when you click the warranty checker link, it launches to the Seagate web site, which give you the great news.


Wonderful …

Seagate used to back their drives with fairly long warranties … you can actually buy these models (shown as OLD MODEL) for a bit less than the new models on Amazon.


They will not back it …

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Published in the Ottawa Citizen

Thanks go once again to Robbi Hay, editor of the Ottawa Citizen’s Ourtown section, for an image of mine once again as the header. This image was shot in early spring a few years ago and is a pretty accurate reaction to how the last few weeks’ thaw / freeze cycles have gone.

Grab this Thursday’s Citizen to see what’s happening around town this weekend and beyond …


Monday, March 7, 2016

IPower.com – I can no longer recommend this web hosting site

I have been using this service for years. Probably decades is more accurate. They have rarely had problems that affected my email or web sites, so I have always been happy to recommend them. But since the start of this year, they have been wiping out my whole site with great frequency. It happened again today, and I have had it.

I may or may not choose to leave them, but I am certainly putting out the warning that they appear to have a competence issue at the very least. YMMV of course …

save image

UPDATE: The websites are back up again. As always, they remind me that I must review their terms of service, which have obviously changed.


They are immensely frustrating these days to deal with, as even trivial increases in script activity cause them shut down your whole account, even though you may very well rely on subdomains for revenue generation. This is the crux of my inability to recommend them for anyone even remotely serious.

At this point, it appears that their strategy is to hammer on anything above the level of “toy” to force you to upgrade your account. And since they are not coming clean on that policy after wiping out my accounts three times in only a few months, I can only say that you should look around at all the options with your eyes wide open. I have taken steps to move my gallery to a simple, self-contained php solution that is extremely portable. Thus, when I get time, I am free to move my domain anywhere I like.