Canon PowerShot G10 (G9 as a preview)

This is coming out in October, but is a pretty big update. A reason to wait before buying a LX-3, I think. “Popphoto”:http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1010&message=29122707 had the notice. The previous “G9”:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canong9/ did get very good reviews (it is 12MP vs. the 15MP in the new G10)

* 14.7 megapixels (wow!)
* 28-140mm 5x zoom
* 3 inch LCD
* RAW support

The biggest advantage of the Lumix, I think is the F/2.0 and F/2.8 lense. That means it will work better in available light. But hard to know with only a press release. The big tradeoff for this speed is the lense is only 24-60mm so it is pretty short.

“Canon PowerShot G9″:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canong9/ review which shows it is actually smaller than the LX3 and people who use it say it feels great. Definitely not an ultracompact, you can stuff it in your purse though. One nice thing is that you can actually use your professional flash on the thing. It has a standard Canon hotshoe. It does have a 0.75x wide convertor to get your from 35mm to 26mm equivalent.

* 12MP on 1/1.7” or 15mm wide
* F/2.8-4.8 lense
* Shoots RAW at 1 per second and 1.5/second for JPEG
* Shots are great to ISO 200 with ISO 400 usable

New DSLRs

(Finally a reprieve from soccer registration). “Photokina”:http://anandtech.com/digitalcameras/showdoc.aspx?i=3400 is coming and it is just an incredible time to buy a high end SLR. The lower end cameras seem to be a deadend. Although they have 12 megapixels, they are reaching the end of the line in image quality (small lense) and low noise (small sensor), but right now is the peak for top end:

* Nikon D90. This is a 12 megapixel camera with full HD movie mode (720p) so is a good step up now.
* Actually, I think the Nikon “D700”:http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d700.htm is way more interesting as a full frame camera that is 12MP and just $3k. That is expensive, but it is amazingly fast and the quality is amazing.
* “Canon 50D”:http://www.anandtech.com/digitalcameras/showdoc.aspx?i=3388 is 15 megapixels in APC size at $1400 street, so higher resolution than the D90, but not full frame. This is a terrific camera in terms of price point and resolution.
* “Sony A900”:http://anandtech.com/digitalcameras/showdoc.aspx?i=3400&p=2. Sony is catching up fast with the giants and is launching a 24MP (!!!) full frame camera. Wow, that is terrific, but what about all my lenses!
* “Canon 5D Replacement”:http://anandtech.com/digitalcameras/showdoc.aspx?i=3400&p=3. I’ve been waiting for this camera for two years. The move to full frame would be terrific, although the 50D is really good. The launch of the 50D and a 5D replacement will put Canon back in the ring. Nikon has really been kicking butt and the Sony guys are not far behind, so this is Canon’s chance to get back in there. This camera has been slipping for 18 months now. The rumor is that it is 18-21MP full frame.

Wow that is a long way from the 8MP 350D I got in 2006 or just about 2 years ago. I stil can’t believe how many great shots even that camera allows. Nice thing is the incredible lenses are all going to still work, so the old maxim of put it in the glass is really true.

Live Streams of Beijing Olympics

NBC has all live feeds available so you don’t have to deal with tape delays. I can’t believe how they can tell you something is “live” when it ended 3 hours ago! That is what is happening on their channels. For instance, Woman’s All Arounds were done by 11PM pacific, but NBC didn’t finish their broadcast until 130AM.

Turns out there are lots and lots of simultaneous events and no way to watch it on a standard television. With “NBCOlympics.com”:http://nbcolympics.com you can do this, but it is nearly impossible to find and do. Here are the instructions for a Mac:

Here are the short cut instructions:

# Go to “NBCOlympics.com”:http://nbcolympics.com and look at all the posrts. There will be a small LIVE icon if there is an event going on in real time. If you click on that sport page, you will get the live feed and also the real time commentary.
# “http://NBColympics.com/video/live”:http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/live/index.html
to see the live streams
# Now click on enlarge and then click on the live video center
# Look for streams that actually say “Live!” although everything on this site is large, afaik, only those are actually in real-time.
# As an aside, not going to enlarge actually is nice because you can see real time text commentary on each of the sports.

# Click on Live Video button in the middle or goto “http://www.nbcolympics.com/video”:http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/index.html. This page is the only one that has the actual live schedule set in US Eastern Time for some reason. The nice thing is that Eastern Time is exactly 12 hours behind Beijing time, so if it says for instance Sailing is 8/16 1AM, then it means the actual event is 8/17 1PM on the next day. You can then click on “Alert Me” so you won’t forget to watch something
# There is a really hard to use “program guide”:http://www.nbcolympics.com/tv_and_online_listings/zone=PT/day=7/time=1080/online.html that you can also try to use, but I find it doesn’t show very much
# Click on any video and you’ll see it. It doesn’t matter if it is live or not. Click on _ENLARGE_. This isn’t just bigger, but gives you more features. It will ask you to install Microsoft Silverlight (good luck with this). There will be a download of a DMG and then you run the package and it installs something
# You should now see a large screen and the first icon in center left and you click on _Live Video Control Room_. It says there are sixty Live Videos which actually aren’t live. They are some collection of what NBC calls “live”. But if you are careful on the scheduling above, you’ll know what is live
# You can then select a small video. One of 60 on the left and then click on either the main screen and then there are small screens 2, 3, and 4. If you click on the center screen, there is an enlarge icon which can get you a little larger, but not full screen for some reason. You can also swap any screen.

If all this fails, hope you can get CBUT which is the Canadian channel. Or go to the live part.

PC Joysticks

This genre of games is pretty much dead now. Too bad. After you are done with Call of Duty 4, it is nice to just fly a plane. In the old days, Falcon was something i could play for hours. Now you can’t even really find a review of a PC joystick anymore. “Consumersearch.com”:http://www.consumersearch.com/www/computers/game-controllers/ has one dates from 2006 if you can believe that. Way back then I got a Thrustmaster Top Gun Fox 2 Shock Joystick (what a name!) and it still works. Purchase patterns on “pricegrabber”:http://computers.pricegrabber.com/joysticks-gamepads/p/52/st=category/ show that the most popular are the Saitek X52, the CH Product Fighterstick, Saitek Cyborg EVO Force and the ThrustMaster T.Flight Stick X Joystick (only $37!).

In summary I’d say get the T.Flight if you are a basic user, the CH Products CombatStick if you are intermediate. See more notes below…

Net, net, the only vendors that are left are speciality ones like CH Products, Saitek and ThrustMaster. Here is what they have in the midrange of $50-100. So not junk, but not more than a computer:

“ThrustMaster T.Flight Stick X”:http://gear.ign.com/articles/843/843580p1.html is the only relatively new product. Nice thing is it works on Mac, PC or PS3. It is like the Top Gun 2 that I had previously. I’ve actually also had an older Thrustmaster as well that I don’t use anymore because it needed the old game interface.

Saitek X52 for $100. “Justenun.com”:http://www.justechn.com/reviews/articles/2006/09/10/saitek_x52.php says it is huge with lots of switches and a separate throttle. “Pricegrabber”:http://computers.pricegrabber.com/joysticks-gamepads/m/6335703/search=saitek/st=sort/sort_type=bottomline has it for $100.

Saitek “Cyborg evo Force Feedback”:http://www.justechn.com/reviews/articles/2005/01/04/saitek_cyborg.php which is an old product with a 2005 review. It is force feedback which is nice. “Pricegrabber”:http://computers.pricegrabber.com/joysticks-gamepads/m/8428461/search=saitek/st=sort/sort_type=bottomline has it for $70. “3dxtreme.org”:http://www.3dxtreme.org/index.php?id=saitekcyborg1 has a review of it as well. The main issue is that since it is force feedback, you need to connect it to a wall wart and plug it in. OTOH, “Thetechlounge.com”:http://www.thetechlounge.com/article/266-3/Logitech+Force+3D+Pro+Joystick/ mentions that Forcefeedback works very well on Combat Flight Simulator 3.

“CH Product Fighterstick”:http://www.chproducts.com/retail/j_fighter_usb_reviews.html is a top end product. These things are speciality with a good reputation. “Pricegrabber”:http://computers.pricegrabber.com/joysticks-gamepads/m/513209/search=ch%20products/st=sort/sort_type=bottomline has it for $104.

The essentially identical “CH Products CombatStick 568”:http://computers.pricegrabber.com/joysticks-gamepads/m/513210/search=ch%20products/st=sort/sort_type=bottomline is $86, so a little cheaper. The “CombatStick 568”:http://www.simhq.com/_technology2/technology_014c.html is supposed to look something like a F-16 stick (whiel the Thurstmaster Cougar is an exact match). Also, CH Products is one of the few companies to support the Mac, so good to know.

As an aside if you’ve time for it “Simhq.com”:http://www.simhq.com/_technology2/technology_014a.html still has folks who play those games.

PC Video Encoding

I blew up my main video machine. Too much crud on it. So here is the fresh installation:

# Sony Vegas Platinum. I only have v6, but it is up to v8. While Adobe Premier might work for the real afictionados it is too complicated for me. The tricky part is making anamorphic standard definition come out. You have to set it to DV NTSC Widescreen and then *uncheck* do not letter box. You then use it to produce DV format in AVI containers. These are very large. 1 hour of video is 14GB!
# “VLC”:http://videolan.org. This is the best player out there that I can find. Nice thing is that include automatic codec installation and also with the Wizard, it will automatically transcode from say any format it can read to MP4 as an example. So you get media player and transcoder.
# “TMPGEnc”:http://www.mediachance.com/dvdlab/dvdsc.html. Still probably the best MPEG-2 encoder out there. DVD Labs has a $12 deal with them. Main thing is that it allows variable bit rate encoding. 4Mbps for MPEG-2 is very high quality. For one hour of video, you’ll need 2GB.
# “DVD-Labs”:http://mediachance/dvdlab. This is the DVD titler that I use. Mainly because so much is automatic. Take the MPEG-2 from TMPGEnc and make a DVD with DVD Labs.
# Handbrake. I’ve used this on the Mac too, but it is the easiest way to encode DVDs or MPEG-2 into MPEG-4 (aka H.264) for playback on computers, iPhones and iPods.
# “Videora iPod Converter”:http://www.videora.com/. Actually it converts any AVI file into iPhone or iPod formats that is h.264 that is correctly encoded. Typically an iPhone h.264 is about 400KB for 1 hour running at 768Kbps. If you want movie quality, 1536Kbps is what you need which you can also get with it. One confusing thing is that Videora is a completely different product that does bittorrent downloads. And there are zillion Videora Converters, but they are all the same software. One will do iPod Video up to iPhone, but they name them differently.
# “PSPVideo9”:http://pspvideo9.com. The way to encode for Sony PSP and you need this because Sony has some strange naming requirements. It doesn’t work just to drag an MP4 over into a MemoryStick.

Landscape Photography

Had a chance to read a landscape photography magazine. Some great tips

# “Neutral Density Graduated Filters”:http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/filters.htm are a good way to get a landscape where the sun is really bright and the landscape is dark. You get something which doesn’t require exposure bracketing and then processing with Photomatix to get a photo. A neutral density filter means it just makes things darker and it is darker at the top than the bottom. He uses what is called a Tiffen 0.6 which means two stops. It isn’t graduated by the way, there is just a light and dark area with a line, so you ahve to line it up at the horizon. “Adorama”:http://www.adorama.com/TF77CGND6X.html has them for $73 as Tiffen part number 77cgnd6.
# As an aside, if you don’t have a filter like this, but do exposure bracket, the other option is to meter the sky and then meter the earth, then bracket so that you cover proper exposure for both. One will be too dark and the other too light, then use a HDR program like Photomatix to stitch it together and it will in essence use the higher exposure for the darker parts and lower for the rest. “Ron Bigelow”:http://www.ronbigelow.com/articles/neutral-density/neutral-density.htm explains hot to do it manually with Photoshop.
# Get a single 77mm size filter and then buy a B+W step up ring so that you can use the same filter size. One of my lenses is 72mm and it is a pain not to have it match, so a step up ring for $12-20 is a great idea. “Adorama”:http://www.adorama.com/BWSR7772.html?sid=1211864761954378 has them for $20 that is B+W part 65041214 that steps from 72mm to 77mm filter.
# Ken likes Nikon and Hoya filters the best because of the thin mounts and low prices of Hoyas. Most other folks seem to like B+W. Most folks don’t like the cheaper filters like Tiffen except for graduate filters where he likes the all-glass Tiffens. You definitely by the way want multicoated and scratch resistant. One B+W lense I got was not MRC and it was scratched in 10 seconds.

“Great-Landscape-Photography”:http://www.great-landscape-photography.com/graduated-filters.html has advice for square filters that you put into a holder at the front of your camera. Normally it is on a tripod. They recommend Lee filters for this purpose. The nice thing about square filters is that you can have lots and lots of them and one holder so it is cheaper since it is not really mounted on your camera. “Bob Johnson’s Earthbounddelight”:http://www.earthboundlight.com/phototips/neutral-density-and-graduated-nd.html makes the same comment. Use holders not screw-on filters. The most useful being two-stop soft-edged (0.6 in Tiffin talk). He likes Singh-Ray for filters.

Zenphoto

_MG_1173_4_5_tonemappedOK, finally flopped Nextgen Gallery for ZenPhoto even though I can’t get the widget to work. But, let’s try integration. First, you should see a “Photos”:http://tongfamily.com/zenphoto button now at the top. You do need a password to see anything though 🙂

But to get it to actually integrate into the blog is the trick. First there is actually putting an image from ZenPhoto into WordPress. This isn’t quite photoblogging, but is somewhat useful. You can either hack around looking for the address or use Zenphotopress to do this as you can see above. The nice thing about Zenphotopress is that it shows you thumbnails of what you want to see.

_MG_1173As an aside the first image is an HDR image that is a combination of three exposures using Photomatix. And then you have the photo as it was originally.

Fax Services

Most people like me don’t have anything fancy. A fax machine at home (well really an all-in-one attached to a phone line where you unplug it most of the time for sending or receiving) and then at work a fax machine tied at the front desk. So if you were in the 21st century and even though there is email of PDFs, folks still send you faxes, what do you do? Ask “Kevin Savetz”:http://www.savetz.com/fax/ a very nice guy with a complete analysis of internet fax services.

The grand data is JFax with their “efax.com”:http://efax.com, it is the first thing you hit when you type fax into Google. The $12/month service let’s you send and receive faxes. It installs client software so that you can print-to-fax and you can also from Outlook hit a button. It has a special format and at least for a 12 page document in Word is pretty slow. For free, they let you recieve faxes, but you pay to send. So looking elsewhere…

“Kevin Recommends”:http://www.savetz.com/fax/index.php a bunch of alternatives. For lots of faxing, he likes “Metro Hi Speed”:http://www.metrohispeed.com/corporate/ which for $13/person/month gives you 1,000 pages of inbound plus outbound and you get a discount so that every employee can have their own fax number which is great. No more waiting at hotels. Just get the fax via email and then review it. One nice thing about it is that it doesn’t require any downloadable software. You just email to a _2065551212@metrohispeed.com_ and it will send a fax to (206) 555-1212 with the email message as the cover sheet and any attachments as the rest of the pages of the fax.

They are much higher volume than efax, but they don’t have a lower priced individual plan. Everyone is $14/month. So Metro Hi Speed makes the most sense for a main .umber. We will test to see how reliable it is. We will always have a real fax machine for really urgent stuff, but this is sure convenient.

As an aside, if you don’t need too much faxing, then you can use “Fax1”:http://fax1.com which lets you send to at 12 cents per page with no signup or monthy fees which is just for sending. We need both send and receive I think but at low volumes for individual users.

Kevin also recommends some other plans, but most have changed. For instance, he says “Faxitnice”:http://faxitnice.com has a prepaid plan, but this has morphed into a minimum $6/month charge with prepaid for 50 pages received per month. So it is still half the price of Metrohispeed with no minimum for sending, just a $0.18/page charge.

Kevin didn’t recommend it explicitly, but has a listing for “Maxemail”:http://www.maxemail.com which despite its name as a Lite plan which is $24/year with 100 pages/month inbound and then $0.05/page for each 30 seconds of time sending outbound (figure out what that means, but certainly cheaper than metro hi speed for smaller volumes). Main drawback is you don’t get to pick a local phone number. So for $7/month, you can get Plus which let’s you have a local number for $7/month vs. $2/month.

Ok, I’m looking for

Ok, I’m looking for three phones…you should definitely check out Amazon. They have a $150 rebate on, it is amazing, main issue is that you can’t get family plans with them.

  1. Nextel. Need a replacement for my work phone. There are two choices
    • Nextel i90c. This is the clamshell and is not color, but it is quite cheap. Only $150. Weighs 4.8 oz.
    • Nextel i95c. This is the color, but it costs $400! Might as well get a Sprint Treo for that. Nice thing is that it only weighs 4.5 oz.
    • Nextel i80s. Ok, this is the cheapest one. It is $30 from Amazon.com or free from letstalk.com and it is $75 from Nextel
  2. Rich’s Newest GSM Phone. Want a small lightweight one. The Nextel is just too big! And this lets me share with Connie and my parents as weel as go worldwide. The choices are between…
    • Ericsson T68 or Let’s Talk. This is the phone that Connie has. Very confusing user interface, but it is color and a world phone as well as GPRS. Cost is $200 for AT&T or T-mobile. But at , it is $50 right now!
    • Motorola V70 Very sleek look but not color nor is it a world phone. Super light though and has a 2.5mm headset. Cost is $125 from Cingular but this requires a two year contract.
  3. For the parents. The choices are for low end GSM phone
    • Motorola V66 or Let’s Talk. It is $50 from letstalk.com or you get $50 back with rebates on Amazon! It doesn’t have a family plan though. Main thing is that it is super light and a world phone. See below…
      • Only 2.79 ounces with slim battery
      • GPRS – for faster internet connections
      • Voice-activated dialing
      • Up to 180 minutes of talk time and 120 hours of standby time
    • Motorola T193 for Free. Main thing nice is GPRS, but isn’t a world phone and is 4 ounces. With a streamlined design, the Motorola T193 has all the features you need, like voice dialing and vibrating alert. Plus you’ll get the features of the built-in organizer functions like a datebook and currency converter. The Motorola T193 also includes:
      • General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)-“always on” Internet access
      • SMS messaging, with reply and phonebook lookup options
      • Vibration alert
      • Voice-activated dialing
      • Up to 300 minutes of talk time or 150 hours of standby time
    • Nokia 3390. $50 rebate, 4.2 ounces and it has that trusty Nokia firmware with an AOL IM client built in. It is also single move
  4. Rich’s latest CDMA phone. OK, I need one of these. The winner looks like either the
    • Handspring Treo 300 for $500 or Amazon has for $420. But it weights 5.2 oz and is color. MAybe I can get rid of my Blackberry? See the Amazon reviews though for how incredibly bad Sprint customer support is and the general integration. Seems like a time to wait. It is really unfortunate, you have to have an SMTP port open to read mail. So, this is not as good as Blackberry integration out of the box apparently.
    • Samsung A500 or Amazon. This is 3.6 ounces and is a color screen. I presume it has the Samsung software which I’ve always liked. But it is $300 on the Sprint site, although it is $220 on Amazon. Also has short battery life because of the incredible TFT screen. The Amazon reviews are filled with poor coverage and customer service comments as well.