the complete camera kit

Someone was asking me, so I love 35mm and love photography, but if I’m jumping in as a serious photographer, how do I really get started. Well, here’s a quick guide if you’ve got the bucks for the best price/performance today:

# Nikon D300. Just reviewed in Popular Photography, it is expensive at $1800 or so, but is the camera that has finally hit state of the art at a reasonable price. It is a 12 megapixel camera, but most importantly, it has the one feature that all digital cameras have a terrible time with, that is the equivalent of fast film. It can take amazingly good photos at ISO 1600 and 3200. That is 8 times faster than film at ASA 400. It means that all lenses just got 4-8 times faster and you can finally take decent shots in available light just about everywhere. Of course, I’m stuck as I’ve got only Canon lenses, but if I were starting over and I cared about great quality, I’d get this one. If you are just starting out, then the Nikon D40x at $600 is an amazing buy. It isn’t as fast, but at the price, you can learn if you love it.
# Nikon 18-200 VR F/3.5-5.6. After years and years, optics have really matured. It is the only lense that most people will need. It is the equivalent of a 25mm wide angle lense in 35mm film land all the way up to a 300mm telephoto and the photo quality is amazing. The optical quality is first rate. It is expensive at $1500, but it will really last a lifetime. The main issue used to be that it was too slow for fast indoor shots at F/3.5, but paired with the D300, its not really a problem.
# Macbook Air. I’m using it now and I have to say, you it is really a dream machine because it is just sooo light. Otherwise, the Macbook is just fine. I can’t remember if you have a Macbook, but if you don’t, there is a model refresh happening this coming month, so hold off buying a month or so. The Air is $1800 and the standard Macbook is $1300 or so.
# Time Capsule. This isn’t really getting the play that it should. It is a 1 terabyte (wow!) server that is also a Wifi access point. Most importantly, it backs up every Mac in your home network every hour so you’ll never lost anything. It is also a great place to put all those photos you take (I have 50GBs of photos right now after 18 months of shooting, digital really let’s you take and keep more and experiment more). It also lets you connect all your computers to a really nice photo printer.
# Canon Pro9000 Photo Printer. They are so amazingly cheap right now, but you can print your own 13×19″ shots right now with all the quality of a professional. The Canon Pro9000 is $500 and the Epson R2400 is the same. The two compete head to head and no one knows which is better. I have the older i9900 and the Pro9000 and they are just amazing. The main thing is not to skimp on the quality of the paper. Getting Canon paper is expensive, but if you just print it once, then what’s the big deal.
# Datavision Spyder3Pro. This sounds crazy, but another important thing is getting your computer monitor calibrated. Most LCDs are way too blue and you’ll go nuts trying to get what you see on the screen to match what actually comes out. There is a little gizmo that actually calibrates the monitor so red is really red and blue is really blue. It’s the last piece to eliminate frustration. While seemingly expensive at $300, it does reduce frustration. Or, since you only really need for fifteen minutes, you can always borrow mine and do the calibration 🙂

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Macbooks in an Microsoft world

With the new Macbook Air, I’m trying to live life without having to install Parallels and Windows OfficeLife

h2. Life without Windows

Did that with Macbook Pro. Just loaded Mac Office 2004 and found that Entourage was a good enough Outlook replacement and that of course Word, Excel and PowerPoint were fine. The only thing I still use Parallels for is for various utilities that don’t have a complement in the Macintosh. These are mp3tag which works better than tritag is the main one.

You can actually have Entourage sync with iCal and Address Book so you can also have your iPhone sort of like a Blackberry. The email gets pushed wirelessly, but you have to dock to get your calendar and address book.

h2. Life without Mac Office

Now if I don’t want Mac Office, then can I do it. Surprisingly, the answer is not too bad. Here is how you replace the pieces:

# Mac Office by iWork ’08. This is a pretty decent replacement at least for the basic spreadsheets and word processing documents that I have. Actually the PowerPoint equivalent is supposed to be better, but I’m so used to the special keystrokes in PowerPoint that it will take me some time. Now iWorks does cost money, but nothing compared to a copy of Mac Office.
# Outlook by Mail and Address Book. Surprising, in the box, Mac Mail now lets you read email from an Exchange Server and you can sync with it. Also, Address Book allows direct synchronization through Outlook Web Access. So if you’ve this turned on, you can get both addresses synced every hour and your mail. Decent solution.
# Outlook by iCal and “Snerdware”: There is no direction sync with iCal, but there is a third party I’m trying called Groupcal by Snerdware that apparently does this. They’ve a free trial but amazingly it doesn’t work on Leopard yet so not quite complete.
# As before you get iPhone sync by iCal and Address Book when you dock.

h2. The simpler but more expensive solution is Mac Office 2008

So I’ll let you know but right now, it looks like you can do a complete replacement. Or just give in a buy a copy of Mac Office 2008 which is a native universal binary application at last.

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Mac to i9900 on a network or Windows PC

This is a pretty mysterious thing to me. It seems to work out of the box for HP printers that are network connected which is amazing. The net is that you can’t get an i9900 to work with a print server or off your Windows machines. It only works if connected to a Mac or to Apple Airport. Or you can get a Pro9000 or newer Canon printer that does work.

However, if you want a Canon i9900 to work with all your Macs, then you pretty much have to get an Airport Express/Extreme or hopefully the new Time Capsule. That is because of the need to support something called CUPS printing. Wow, I have lots to learn…

Apple – Support – Discussions – Canon i9900 printer no good on print server …

Network printing/Windows printing only works with a driver that was meant for network printing. To use the OS X built-in CUPS network choices, you need a CUPS driver. For postscript printers, this is not an issue, because postscript is the native output of OS X, and can easily be routed to the various choices in Printer Setup.
Non-postscript printers are Very Different. Except for Brother, no manufacturer has provided CUPS drivers. Instead, what you get are Carbon-type, OS9 legacy drivers, that have the comm protocol written into the driver (mostly USB). They can only print via local connection.

An Exception is that when printing via an Airport/Bonjour enabled print server (Airport Express/Extreme/another Mac), where the software does a port redirection, USB output from the Mac gets routed to the USB port on Airport Express/Extreme. In other words, a USB-only driver will work for network printing through Airport Extreme/Express and for Mac-to-Mac sharing.

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Red River Paper 68lb Glossy r1.0 on i9900

OK, I’ve been printing a bunch of 8×10 photos on Red River Paper for Calvin’s basketball team and it just comes out way too red despite all the color matching. Super frustrating as the profiles for the Canon Photo Pro is perfect out of the box. So it is either time to buy a “Colorvision Printfix Pro”: and go through all the work to printout and then scan so for every paper it is perfect. Or, I just have to read the directions better.

Part of the problem is that the directions in the box of the 8×10 paper is different from the “Red River”: web site. They are pretty dramatic, I used what was in the box and got way too red. The key parameters are:

Color compensation: Perceptual vs. Relative Colormetric
Paper type: Pro Photo vs. Photo Paper Plus Glossy
Intensity: 0 or -10

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!!: Alex showed me a photo and I asked where was it taken, he said, I made it with “Terragen”: This is another amazing free program that creates photorealistic landscapes. Kind of amazing how fast a computer can be and hold realistic things are.

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Macbook Air Rocks

As “Gizmodo”: says, power users are going to hate it, but those of us who like simplicity and functionality love the Macbook Air. Yes, it doesn’t have enough USB ports for the true power user, but it makes up for it with three things that are hard to describe but really important (at least to me):

# Thin and light. I had forgotten what a joy a sub 3 pound notebook is. I used the Sony VAIO series for a long time, but what got in the way was a tiny screen and tiny keyboard
# Amazing screen and keyboard. I can’t say enough how wonderful it is to have something that is full size, but super thin. There isn’t a tradeoff for the everyday 99% of what I do which is email, web browsing and blogging.
# Absolutely quiet and cool. It doesn’t feel like a computer, it feels like a wonderful piece of art that happens to see the Internet. You really have to use it to believe it.

Now it won’t ever replace a full laptop for folks who have to drive SUVs (that’s a joke!), but it is perfect for the fellow who just needs simple transportation that works and looks great a la Bang & Olufson.

So how do you get around the limitations:

# No CD/DVD. There are really two reasons for using an optical drive. First is for software. 99% of all software can be copied onto your hard drive. That’s what I do with MacOffice, etc. The only thing that really needs a true CD is Mac OS X itself (unlike Windows which can start from a hard drive folder). So, you always need to carry a Leopard install CD and superdrive if you are going far away from home.
# No DVD for movies. In truth, I never do watch DVDs anymore. Most everything I see is in DIVX or H.264 format now. That stuff that isn’t, I transcode because it takes a 8GB DVD and turns it into a 1GB file.
# Not enough disk. That is an issue, 64GB and 80GB are just not that much in a world of lots of music and videos. Right now, I’m using a USB hard drive in a docking station to carry TBs and do backup. With the upcoming Time Capsule, I’ll just stuff it all onto a server.
# Not enough USB. In thinking about it, when I’m on the road, the only issue is that I like to charge my Blackberry and my iPhone at the same time, so I guess I just need to carry a power adapter.

So if you are worried about the tradeoffs, you have to get a few things that make it easier, here is required equipment that goes with a MacBook Air

# Logitech Alto Connect. As “Gizmodo”: This is the best and most elegant laptop stand I’ve ever seen. It has four USB ports that are powered and it raises the laptop up. It’s a great $80 investment for any laptop. It essentially makes a docking station very USB. With a great screen like the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro for that matter, you don’t really need an extra LCD screen anymore, so all you need is USB connection to your network (if you don’t like Wifi), your iPhone (when will this just work via Wifi?), your Superdrive (on the four times a year you might use it). “Pricegrabber”: has for $84 delivered or Apple retail stores stock them too.
# Extra power supply, just have a power supply whereever your desk in, so docking is just plugging in a single USB and then the power cable.
# Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The new Apple “wireless keyboard”: is truly a beautiful work of art as is the “Wireless Mighty mouse”: At $79 delivered and $67, they are expensive, but fit the Macbook Air well.
# “Apple Time Capsule”: Although not out yet, you pair this was a Macbook Air to get 1TB for backing up the tiny 64GB SSD (if you are wasteful enough to get one!) and also for file service.
# Road warriors are going to have to carry more stuff like a “Belkin 4-port swivel hub”: ($30) and the really heavy duty extension cord that weighs as much as the computer it seems like as well as the USB-to-Ethernet adapter since not everyone has ethernet as well as micro-DVI to VGA and DVI adapters. Not to mention a set of plugs for foreign countries. You also want the special Magsafe Airline adapter ($49) that is special for the MacBook Air

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Macbook Air SSD vs. Conventional

Well “Ludwig”: has one, so I have to have one too, the first solid state drive Macbook Air’s are arriving and the question is how do they perform. “Macrumors”: shows that there is nothing too unexpected.

The CPU is pretty slow at 1.8GHz but is way faster than the pokey 4200 rpm 80GB hard drive at random uncached reads and writes. It should have better battery life than the 2.5 hours that folks are reporting, but no specific data on that. On random, 4K block reads and writes it is 7MBps/2.23MBps vs. 0.57Mbps/0.35MBps for the traditional hard drive. Both aren’t particularly fast, but that is a big difference! Now most hard drives have big caches, so the difference definitely shrinks in real usage.

“Gizmodo”: ran a benchmark set with the Macbook Air (1.6GHz, 2GB Ram, 80GB hard drive, 4200rpm HDD) against a Macbook (2GHz/1GB 667MHz DDR2 Ram, 120GB/5400 rpm HDD) and a Macbook Pro (2.2GHz, 2GB 667GGHz DDR2, 160GB, 5400 rpm hard drive):

| Test | MBA | MacBook | MacBook Pro |
| MP3 Encode | 3m14s | 3m51s | 3m40s |
| QT iPhone export | 1m13s | 1m11s | 48s |
| USB to Macbook | 35s | 33s | 29s |
| Duplicate Flash drive | 1m15s | 1m03s | 1m |
| Boot | 45s | 41s | 30s |

The interesting things is that it really isn’t that much slower. They also have raw “Xbench”: results as well. Xbench for my Macbook Pro vs. MacBook Air are:

| Test | MBA | MacBook Pro |
| CPU | 80 | 107 |
| Memory | 159 | 151 |
| Graphics | 98 | 169 |
| UI | 104 | 216 |
| Disk Sequential | 43 | 27 |
| Disk Random | 17 | 24 |

In the above higher is better. I’m really unclear on the disk tests as you’d think a 5400rpm 160GB drive would do better

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iPhone downgrade to 1.1.1 then upgrade to 1.1.2

OK, I had some trouble getting an iPhone (jailbroken, but locked) to work and now it is always in recovery mode. After much searching, “”: seems to have the answer, which is to downgrade to 1.1.1. The biggest problem is that I forgot that you have to recover the firmware back to the 1.1.1 version. So you have to do two downgrades. First with recovery mode and then with the firmware reload. It is incredibly confusing and I made mistakes all day, so here is a detailed guide:

# Assuming you have a phone that doesn’t have 1.1.2 preinstalled (e.g., has a newer boot loader), do the following
# Check your version of itunes, it needs to be version 7.5 or lower. Get older version from “”: On a PC, goto control panel/add and remove programs and uninstall itunes, then run itunes 7.5 installer. On a Mac, delete the iTunes in /Applications and then delete /System/Private Library/Mobile Framework and then install itunes 7.5
# Now turn off your iPhone by holding the power button for 15 seconds, plug your iPhone into your PC. Hold the HOME and the Power button for fifteen seconds. The thing will come on with an screen saying plug into the PC.
# Now download 1.1.1 from “”: list of firmware locations
# Start iTunes and you should see a screen that says iPhone is in recovery mode and you have two options, Restore or Upgrade
# Now hold the Shift key and click on Restore, if you’ve got a PC, on a Mac, it is Option and click on Restore and select the 1.1.1 ipsw file you downloaded earlier. Repeat click on RESTORE.
# The firmware will then reload and you will get an error from iTunes that is normally 1604 or 1015, this is superious but you will still see the recovery screen, so you have to kick it out with a PC/Mac program.
# Exit itunes.
# Download the “1.1.2 Jailbreak”: Turn off any firewalls like Zonealarm on your PC. Install “Java”: if you have a PC. Macs already have Java on them. Run Windows.bat on your PC. Run jailbreak.jar from your Mac.Click on _Boot from Recovery_ and you should see the thing reboot into a normal screen. You might have to Control-C the Java program as it can hang waiting for reboot.
# You should now see the Activate iPhone screen on your iPhone
# Now “Bypass Activation”: by putting a Sim card in and then you go thought this very complex sequence, where you slide for emergency
# Dial *#301# which makes the phone call itself
# Answer the call and tap Hold and Tap decline. This gets you to the dialer screen. Nice trick!
# Tap contacts and then the + icon and then Add new URL called _prefs:_ and then add another called _i.unlock.no_ and choose Save
# Now tap on the prefs: URL and you magically get to the settings menu. Click on About and make sure you are at 1.1.1. Sometimes the install fails and you’ll have to try it on another computer
# Tap on Wifi and connect to your access point
# Tap on Autolock and select never
# Tap on HOME, slide the emergency call unlock and dial 0 call and get back to the full dialer screen
# Tap on Contacts and tap on the contact you just made
# Tap on and you should get to Safari and then hit the jailbreak me link
# At this point you will have 1.1.1 firmware and some strange baseband most likely the 1.1.2 version which is 4.02G, so if you just want to get your phone working again, you have to downgrade the firmware too. Note that if you are just going on to 1.1.2, you don’t have to do this since unlocking 4.01G (1.1.1 baseband) doesn’t help you with 4.02G (1.1.2 baseband)
# As “”: says, Tap on the Installer icon and then go to Tweaks 1.1.1 and install Oktoprep
# Now download the 1.1.2 firmware, connect the phone to the computer and open iTunes, it will show a screen saying, hey this is a new iPhone, what do you want me to sync. Don’t sync to anything
# Now hold down the shift key for windows or option key for Mac
# _Note Hit UPGRADE, not RESTORE_, I made this mistake all day, you are not restoring but upgrading and you don’t need to put the iPhone into recovery mode.
# After the installation is finished, you have have an activation screen
# Exit itunes
# You should already have jailbreak 1.1.2 on your PC or Mac somewhere, run windows.bat or jailbreak.jar for PC and Mac respectively. Click on install SSH and change the password from alpine and remember that password. Jailbreak.jar will now upload lots of stuff and you should see all kinds of numbers flying by as it uploads 31MB worth of junk. You will also se a progress button saying Jailbreaking…Reading flash image and then writing flash image and finally it will say your device will reboot several times and you should be jailbroken
# Now you can unlock your phone, first tap on Settings and enable Airplane mode
# Tap on Setting and General and make sure you are in Auto lock never
# tap on Installer and then Utilities category and locate anySIM 1.2.1, (Don’t run this unless you are in Airplane mode!)
# Since 1.1.3 didn’t break the “IPSF exploit”: you can unlock the 1.1.3 baseband.

The main tricky part I’ve noticed is that there is something called the Mobile Development framework. You can really get Independence confused by what is there and you get this strange “FAILURE. Error registering for callbacks from iPhone.” As “”: says, you have to go to /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/ and delete the MobileDevice.framework folder and reinstall iTunes 7.5 or lower. Actually the post says 7.6 works, but the documentation in Independence 7.2 says you need 7.5 or lower. Go figure.