Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SLR news from dpreview

Came across a few interesting items on dpreview in advance of PMA:
  • Sony's new DSLRs have an interesting implementation of LiveView.
  • Sigma has a "military hardware" style 200-500mm F2.8 weighing 16kg!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Semantic wikis revisited

I've started working on semantic wikis again. We're planning a study here at work to see whether semantic wikis can be used to create content suitable for reasoning. We don't know either way yet, I suspect the answer is going to be mixed.

Our platform is mediawiki. We have installed the semantic mediawiki and semantic forms extensions. The software is a bit cumbersome to use, but we've been able to define some forms, templates and content for our study. We're still waiting on a version of the Halo extension that works with semantic mediawiki 1.0.

I've found the idea of a semantic wiki intriguing and promising ever since I first heard of them. Now I'm getting the chance to study how well the idea works in a near ideal environment, and where it falls short. This is also the first project I've put together. I'm really hoping it goes smoothly, I'd like it to lead to some interesting follow-ons.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Updated photography wish list

Having gained significantly more experience, I thought I'd update this list.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Lens
1.4x teleconverter
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens
Tamron 180mm macro lens

In that order. But the next item I'll actually get will most likely be Photoshop.

Flashes and tubes

I've recently acquired two new pieces of equipment: a flash, and extension tubes for macro photography "on the cheap". I bought a Canon 580 EX II flash a few weeks ago, but I haven't really used it all that much. I haven't really had the opportunity to use it, and when I do have the opportunity I'm afraid to use it because I haven't used it enough. A chicken and egg situation that I must resolve. Otherwise that wonderful piece of equipment is going to be a complete waste. I've tried taking a few photos of Richa with it, and have been learning how to use wall bounce to create a nice, pleasing, balanced light. Overall, it has turned out to be impressively easy and straightforward. The next time I have a chance to use the flash, I am not going to hold back.

Today I also picked up a set of Kenko extension tubes. Extension tubes are an interesting piece of equipment. They fit on the lens, between the lens and the camera, basically adding some air. This causes the focal distance of the lens to be reduced, and gives the lens much greater magnification. The lens at this point can no longer focus to infinity, but only within a very short range from the lens. With a 50mm lens, the focal range of the lens is only a few inches, and drops to only a couple of inches if you use all the extension tubes. The photo quality is surprisingly good, but I now see why it is essential to have a decent flash for macro photography. The amount of light available is so small, you effectively have to choose between having reasonable depth of field, and having a reasonable exposure time. With a tripod, this setup will work pretty well for still subjects, such as flowers. But I can't imagine using this setup for insects. At some point I will have to see if it's possible to set up the external flash off camera and use it for macro photography. Canon's twin light and ring light are fairly expensive pieces of gear, with very specialized use. This is not how I want to spend my photography budget.

Photographing through glass

Remember those early morning photos of the moon? They will need quite a bit of cleaning up. The reason? There are two possibilities:
  1. Double planed windows. Don't photograph through double planed windows at night. A light on the outside can cause havoc. The inner pane reflects light to the outer pane, which then reflects it back into the camera.
  2. The camera itself. I had a non-multicoated UV protector on my lens. That might have reflected light from the lens itself back to the window, which reflected it back.
I'll ping my Adobe connection again and see how close I might be to getting photoshop. Lightroom doesn't have as many tools for doing cleanup etc, which is a shame.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Merge done

I'm done writing my little blog merging program in Java, and as you might see from the current state of this blog, the merging worked. I don't know if it would have been able to do it any faster by hand. But I got a first hand look at the Google API. The API is generic, which is both good and bad. Good because they can apply it to any service that can be viewed as a feed. Bad because it isn't necessarily clear what a particular call really does. You have to familiarize yourself with the underlying data model which is generally based on the Atom standard.

Where to from here? I've spent a few hours writing this program. Should I turn it into a full fledged blog management tool? It will be a really good exercise in learning some UI programming. I've never really invested serious time into that.

Oh, I also discovered how little functionality the Blogger post management console really provides. Ugh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I am authentic!

Well, at least in the Google sense. I wrote a little Java program (that stretches out beyond the blog's viewing area, but you can still copy and paste in its entirety) that's able to authenticate me against Google:

public static void main(String[] args) {
GoogleService blogger = new GoogleService(BLOGGER , APP_NAME);
String authToken = null;
try {
authToken = blogger.getAuthToken(username, password, null, null, BLOGGER, APP_NAME);
} catch (AuthenticationException e) {
System.err.print("Could not log into account for " + username + ". Aborting.");
System.out.print("Authentication succeeded, received token " + authToken);

I know, it isn't much. And had I actually read the full developer document, I would have been able to code this up in about five minutes. Instead, I managed to spend a half hour doing it. I'm special.

Oh, there was no snow on Highway 35. Only lots of fog. And the vista point they have at the corner of 92 and 35 is pretty unspectacular.

What's the cause here?

Found this interesting graph... Question is, are states democratic because of their economic standing, or do states have their economic standing because they are democratic? I tend to think it's the forme, but the latter point of view gives me a pause. How would you refute it anyway?

Gravity rediscovered

Apple's stock seems to be in a free fall this morning. I'm not really that concerned about the stock market in the long run. It's going to do what it's going to do. I'm worried about the short term: we have taken on a construction project that's going to require more money input than our cash can cover, and I really hope I'm not forced to sell stock with the market doing this badly. There are some tax returns coming, I hope they cover our needs.

Couldn't make it to 35 this morning to photograph snow. Work intervened. I'll head out a little early today though and see if I can get a few shots on the way back home. I stopped at the Crystal Springs reservoir though. Without the sun lighting the clouds, it was possible to capture the shape of the mist over the hills. Crystal Springs could be a really interesting site to take photos, but the SF Water District is very protective of that land (with good reason) and has the water fenced off. The best shots there are quite out of reach, which makes for a very frustrating experience.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The interminable wall st slide

I've been pretty unhappy with the state of the economy ever since I started keeping track of it in my own little way. (It hasn't been that long.) The US is spending money in Iraq, it seems basically through borrowing. The dollar's slid so much, traveling abroad (even if I could, but that's a different story) seems like a pipe dream. The Fed's cutting rates to prop up a poorly functioning stock market, at the risk of raising inflation even further. This very myopic world view in which the US operates is extremely troubling at so many levels.

Early morning photo op

Woke up this morning to find a big beautiful full moon over city night lights. I think I got some good shots before clouds and daylight took over the scene. I got a glimpse of stories of snow on Mt Diablo. I wonder if there's snow on 35 again this year. I'll likely check it out tomorrow on the way to work. Can't leave the car home in any case.

Too bad tonight's photos came after the close of the photo assignment at MBP. The moon would have made a wonderful long exposure shot.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Merging blogs

I've decided I need to blog more frequently. And having a single blog is going to help me in that endeavor. Being a programmer, I naturally can't just copy and paste the blogs. No, I am going to try and do this through software. Open source lisp software. On windows.

I must be mad, that's not going to work. There isn't a decent SOAP library for CL, which makes this project a non-starter. An alternative might be to use FOIL to construct a Lisp to Java bridge, and use the Java APIs to fetch data from blogger.

How about I just do this in Java instead? Lisp has a very small role to play in this process, so I'd spend all my time figuring out how to move data from Java to Lisp and back, without really doing anything interesting or sophisticated in Lisp.

Pragmatism wins.