May 25th, 2013

Porsupah in concentration

Mexican Beekeeper

Another photography competition: Landscape Photographer of the Year, with a couple unique prize choices, as the contest is sponsored by Network Rail: a flight on their inspection helicopter, or a ride on the New Measurement Train, neither normally available to the public, plus £300 cash. Categories include "classic view", "living the view", "urban view", and "your view". Urban.. hm! Wonder about entering my ultra-high res view of Bath.. there wouldn't be much of an issue with the resolution for printing that. =:D The main prizes, however, are more cashly in nature, with the overall winner receiving the title and £10,000, with category winners getting £1,000, and category second-runners £500 each. All images must be of the UK, but the contest is open worldwide.

If you're unemployed and in the UK, does the idea of walking around the country and being paid to do so have appeal? Penguin Books are looking for just such a person. ^_^ "We’re looking for someone who doesn’t mind getting their boots dirty, can string a sentence or two together and can get creative about how they share their journey with the world. You should already know your way around social networks and be able to produce short videos on your own. The winner will become our Wayfarer and will get paid to travel around the UK throughout July and August (so please only enter if you’ll be available all summer). You’ll visit some of the Old Ways paths, but, even better, you’ll strike out on your own and make some new discoveries, on or off the beaten path. You will then report back on your adventures through blog posts, photos, videos and tweets."

Team Badger just released Weebl's new creation, featuring Brian May on guitar, and voice work by the inimitable Brian Blessed: Save the Badger Badger Badger. Truly a wonderful thing, and in such an eminently good cause.

Meanwhile, at the Wildlife Trusts' Slimbridge Wetland Centre, a 24-hour guard's been mounted to ensure the safety of western Britain's first crane egg in over 400 years. ^_^ This is the outcome, apparently, of their Great Crane Project, started in 2010, aimed at reintroducing them to the West Country.

Kickstarters! First, I should note Ghost of a Tale did indeed manage to reach its target. ^_^ Now, I see there's another rather interesting looking furry project, by one of the ParaNorman animators: a short, Dogonauts, "Mortal enemies, a Dogonaut Pilot and a Space Flea, shoot each other down only to awake, marooned side by side on an alien desert planet." It's already reached its target, but you've only until Thursday to help back it.

Flattr's just taken rather an interesting direction: Flattr for Creators, which permits linking your accounts on various services with your Flattr account. That way, when you favorite a photo on Flickr, or a track on SoundCloud, you can choose (per service, set in your account preferences) to automatically Flattr the creator. The big two points of Flattr versus other tipping options are:

- Flattr works on a fixed amount per month, which you set. So, you're never in any risk of winding up with a much larger tab at the end of the month than you'd anticipated. Rather, it simply divvies up your allowance between everyone you've tipped in the month. (You can, of course, increase your allowance, or Flattr someone multiple times, giving them more slices of the pie)

- it's independent of any single financial service, so if you don't feel like having anything to do with particularly bad providers, that's no problem at all. There's quite a good list of providers to choose from, giving pretty much anyone options, wherever you are in the world. You use whichever works for you, the recipient does likewise.

Currently, the list of services supported is: Flickr, 500px, Twitter, F*c*b**k, Instagram, SoundCloud, GitHub, Vimeo,, and YouTube. The way it operates would seem to be that it scans your favorites on each service, detecting new items that you've favorited, or have been favorited by others; if both the donor and recipient are Flattr users, the transaction takes place.

Regrettably, I'm not amongst those on the BWPA shortlist. *sigh* A little disappointing, but, I certainly don't regret having entered - I stand by those I submitted as being of the standard required. I must, necessarily, endeavor to improve my technique and practices. (And if a boatload of cash crashes near me, a Nikkor 800mm f/5.6 wouldn't hurt =:)

If you've enjoyed her work, you might like to see Annie Lennox's 2013 commencement address to Berklee College, about fifteen minutes long.

footpad recently noticed a top-notch online comic, Off-White, which those of you of a canid persuasion might well want to look at. (For your convenience, he's also set up an RSS feed here: off_white_comic)

The CamRanger looks like being a fantastically useful widget for anybody engaging in remote camera operation. Whilst it's long been possible to use something like OnOne's DSLR Remote to see your DSLR's live view on an iPhone or suchlike, and control its operation from the device, that's meant having to tether the camera to a laptop, to which your device then connects. Essentially, the CamRanger performs the role of that host, but in a much more convenient device. So, if you want to set up your camera on a tripod in a selected location, and then step back well out of view, you're able to control all the usual functions, without ever being in the line of sight of your subjects.

You've probably seen Paperman by now, ne? Here's CollegeHumor's parody, picking up where the short left off: Paperman Threesome, rendered in a very similar style.

But if you need something of much worse quality, consider Foodfight! Where to start: the wretched animation, the limp script, or the explicit product placement? Could be a great one for a group razzing, though. =:D (And then consider the budget, noted on its Wikipedia entry. Wow.. where on Earth did all that money go?)

Blood Angels Space Marine at LinCon 2013 is a fairly eye-popping example of cosplay done so very well. The sound effects as they move around really completes the atmosphere, even beyond just how convincing they look to begin with.

"A Barrister's Wife" is a noteworthy weblog, recounting cases he's dealt with. One small set of entries is aimed at raising awareness of just how easy it is to be accused of a criminal offense, and how very easy it is to receive the stigma thereof, however baseless the accusations. For example, Exhibit A: The "Child Pornographer"; there are others in that series, equally illuminating.

bunny is rather a neat implementation of a WiFi darknet. It operates by listening to traffic around it, then using packets that could plausibly belong to expected traffic - beacon, probe, and QoS packets - and inserting fragments of data into fields that aren't solidly defined, or may have fields that can be used for such. In that way, you wind up with an ad hoc network that appears not to be there - anyone scanning will simply see the ordinary networks around.

Mind if I grizzle for a moment? I had a perfectly happy RAID, sat by the chair, made of two 3TB drives. A soft RAID, but OS X seems to do a fine job of it. Perfectly happy, that is, until I blundered into one of the USB cables, yanking it out from the drive.. and so now, it apparently feels a need to rebuild. Taking about a day and a half. =:/

Hoo! I'm pleased I picked up that new SD Card the other day - wound up taking around 1,600 shots at the festival, and the museum the next day. Only trouble, of course, is it's going to take forever to go through them all, and pick out the ones that seem to have promise, and then tease out the magic with the correct cropping and other image adjustments. Still, a load of fun, with some excellent food, notably the pulled pork and hog roast, though the brisket was a bit disappointly ordinary. Hot Fiction, Ha Ha Tonka, Valerie June, and Kitty, Daisy & Lewis ("three siblings from Kentish Town whose Persian father brought them up on a strict diet of Johnny Cash & Chuck Berry") all seemed to be having as great a time as the audience, even if some of the latter were scared off by the evening shower. ^_^; Still, I can highly recommend Grillstock if you like the idea of real barbecue of all kinds, along with rockabilly, blues, and much good cider and beer to go along with it all. If you're near Manchester, yours is still to come, in June. ^_^

I'll have to admit, quite a few of these are a challenge to work with, with some severe contrasts between the dark stage background, and the light outfits of some of the performers - trying to preserve the entire range isn't straightforward. (Not something I normally encounter, of course - even in a scene where a bun in shadow isn't far from some brighter grass, it's not as sharp a contrast)

The hotel the roomie found for the weekend, meanwhile, worked out very happily. ^_^ He wound up being unexpectedly chilled, and retired to his room - I wandered around awhile, and attempted to capture some harborside views. At night, without a tripod. Eh, it was fun. *grin* (And actually, not fruitless =:) The route back didn't seem to lead past any notable pubs, so I resorted to the hotel bar - which turned out to be not such a bad option, with a couple local brews available on keg (no casks) and bottle, along with four varieties of Grey Goose. Could do worse. =:D

A friend noticed Fiddler 2, a free web proxy tool - useful if you want to inspect all the HTTP/HTTPS traffic, see how much data's being transferred, decrypt HTTPS sessions, or modify the traffic being passed.

Rubber horsies! Pulling a carriage! What's not to love? ^_^

And so it came to pass that I did hop on a train, and then deep underground, to give safe haven to a shiny new D7100 and TC14E. ^_^ Congratulations are due to Grays of Westminster (almost typed "mon" instead, which is surely as it should be) for not only having the best price in the country, but also offering a range of financing options, including interest-free, with no penalty for early repayment. Not to mention fully knowledgeable, expert staff. And if you enjoy "classic" cameras, you'll definitely want to spend a little time perusing their used selection, and the reading copy of the history of Nikon, from their formation onwards - quite fascinating. First impressions:

- quite a civilised shutter (well, mirror) sound, a little gentler than the D90.
- I do like the locking mode dials - I'd sometimes bump that taking the camera out of the bag, and wind up accidentally taking a few shots on aperture priority mode before noticing.
- Two SD card slots could be handy, especially with the size RAWs it can produce - where the D90's might be around 10MB, the D7100's can easily top 30MB, given twice the pixel count (24MP vs 12MP), and the ability to shoot 14-bit RAWs, vs the D90's 12-bit only pipeline. I'll likely pick up at least one 95MB/s Sandisk, possibly a pair, to fully accommodate the peak burst shooting rate of 7fps - as this card comparison demonstrates, the camera does hit the card's maximum transfer rate. Unfortunately, it doesn't (and indeed, none of Nikon's do) support parallel writing to cards, to double the rate at which the buffer is flushed out.
- Not too keen on the shutter release button action - seems significantly stiffer than the D90's. The real test, of course, will come over the next week or two, weather permitting, in seeing how much better I find the autofocus system than the D90's. (One additional benefit: the D7100 supports lens fine tuning. I'll want to calibrate both the 300mm f/4 and 120-300mm f/2.8)
- If I fall back into recording friends' gigs, as I did back at Orban, the ability to connect external audio sources for video will be a great benefit - but even the internal stereo mics, and high quality audio, will be a huge step from the D90's inexplicable 22kHz 8-bit mono.
- The viewfinder info display's now provided by a white OLED, which gives the impression of being rather brighter - that'd be useful on bright days, when shooting at just the wrong angle, when the D90's info would be obscured, necessitating raising one hand to temporarily shield the view.
- "Quiet" mode could be useful on occasion. The mirror sound is slightly quieter, and it's not released back into position until you release the shutter button, so you can time that for a good moment.
- ooh. Drop down to 12-bit (slummin' it) and 1.3x crop, and you receive a burst rate of 7fps - which does sound quite fun. =:) I might well use that now and then, though it's so difficult to tell when the buns will engage in those gloriously furious, brief chases. Maybe I'll see if those parameters can be saved in the U1/U2 settings - being able to switch modes like that with just a dial rotation might be feasible for my purposes. (Here's what that sounds like - it begins at full speed, dropping once the internal buffer's full. At that point, it's capped by the card's speed - in this case, a 32GB Sandisk 95MB/s in slot 1)
- Apple's lagging in offering a RAW update, so, out of the box, Aperture and iPhoto can't import its RAWs. However, they're not the only game in town, and DxO Optics Pro 8, Lightroom 5 beta, and others will cope quite happily. The solution I'll likely adopt, temporarily, is using Adobe DNG Converter (free, OS X and Windows) - that way, I'll get to continue with Aperture processing, at the cost of an intermediate stage. (Note: combining (1) "embed original RAW" with (2) an external RAID over USB2, with (3) 423 RAWs to process does make for a long conversion. I might do well to convert them on the SSD hereon =:)

Eurovision 2013! Best in a few years. ^_^ I voted for Romania (a necessity), Malta (Johnathan Coulton regenerated), and Hungary (the happy hipsters) - none won, but none did terribly, so I'll bear my burden peaceably. =:) I'm surprised how poorly France fared, however - below even the UK? Quite strange, to my mind - they deserved much better. All the same, I'm pleased Denmark prevailed - if I'd opted to vote for another, they'd have been my choice; there were quite a few fun entrants to choose from this year, and happily, a sparkly entry won out. ^_^

Bad joke of the day, ℅ one QuantumPirate: "Gay people are like buses, often performing vital community services & concentrated in major metropolitan areas. Sometimes two come at once."

Flickr's had a few changes made, as you'll see if you go to your (or someone else's) photostream - it's now the "mosaic" look, previously found if you went to your contacts' recent photos. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way of reverting it - that's the sole option now. I'm actually reasonably fine with the look - it's quite slickly presented, preserving the full image and its aspect ratio, rather than adopting an automatic crop, 500px style. But, I'm less content with the way clicking on a photo brings one to the light-table view, rather than the image's own page - I'd much sooner see people's comments and favorites. It seems it boils down to: ad-supported accounts will have essentially no limits; paid accounts will see no ads; Pro accounts will see no ads, for half the new price, and will retain access to stats. It's not clear if stats will be available to new paid users, or everyone. Recurring Pro subscriptions will remain billed at whatever rate you'd chosen ($25/yr, or $45 every two years). Effectively, then, they intend to shift Flickr from a subscriber base to funded by advertising - which seems rather potty to me, given the fickle nature of advertising, and the inevitability of everyone actively using Flickr simply turning on their ad blockers. Meanwhile, unless you have a recurring subscription, being ad free is doubling in price, going up to $50/yr.

Still, it's not a huge matter. I doubt they'll nuke Flickr, but they may tinker with it, in the name of being seen not to leave it neglected. My photos are all safe, but I'd be very sad to see anything happen to the comments, or the lively state of the community there. I can post my photos in any number of places, but it's the community that's made it so much fun doing so.

A delightful quote from J K Rowling: "[Quidditch] was invented in a small hotel in Manchester after a row with my then boyfriend. I had been pondering things that hold a society together, cause it to congregate and signify its character, and I knew I needed a sport. It infuriates men, in my experience (why is the Snitch so valuable), which is satisfying given my state of mind when I invented it."

Sequential looks like being a must-have for the iPad - the publisher, Panel Nine, will be bringing graphic novel and comic works from the likes of Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, and Hunt Emerson.

Let it be known: a Mexican Beekeeper is 3:1 Jack Daniels Honey to tequila. That's if it's something cheaper like Jose Cuervo, which is perhaps recommended; if it's a very smooth tequila, you'll want to bump it to more like 3:2. Best at room temperature, no ice. Feel free to munch on some good milk chocolate too.