Blog entries from August, 2009

Melbourne X User Group

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 at 11:43pm

Tonight I went along to the Melbourne X User Group, aka MXUG but I’m not sure how people were pronouncing it. In this case the ‘X’ does not refer to anything specific such as X11 or Mac OS X, but to anything at all but usually of a technical persuasion.

I first heard about this group at StixCampNewstead, but I hadn’t managed to make it before. Someone mentioned that prior to being MXUG it was a Rails group, but that wasn’t getting enough traction. That cannot be said of MXUG as there were over 30 people there tonight.

There was plenty in the night, four 15-20 minute talks, six lightning talks and plenty of pizzas! I will be making this one of my regular meetings.

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The collection will be downsized

Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 10:24pm

I have been neglecting my computer collection. The last time anything changed was when I acquired the Apple IIc with LCD, and apart from booting it up once and taking a photo it has sat idle for almost 9 months.

Two years ago I handed off my IBM PCs and IBM PS/2s. One year ago I eliminated the Sun items.

This time I am going to be ruthless, and most of the collection must go as the space could be better used for other things. For example camera related gear.

But what few items will I keep? I have thought about this before and from a glance around the shelves here is a list, ranked by likelihood of keeping:

I have a lot more, both systems and peripherals. My priority will be in downsizing (via ebay) the systems as they take up the most space. First to go will be the SGI Indys and then I will start on the variety of Macintosh and Power Macintosh systems.

Although this has been on my todo list for a while, I only realised today that the Annual Hard Rubbish Collection is just over a month away (for the area I am in). This means I don’t have much time and while I will start with the more signifigant items, if I don’t get organised a number of systems will be thrown out.

Not necessarily the best outcome, but unless I set myself a deadline, nothing will change for another year…

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I don’t trust the cloud

Saturday, August 15th, 2009 at 03:29pm

Since StixCampNewstead I have been meaning to write a post about trusting the cloud. I did start it, but it turned into quite a long and detailed post that I never got around to completing.

It seems that every couple of weeks that something happens to compromise user data. A couple that I noted were Ma.gnolia losing their database, Bloglines being neglected after being sold, Google dropping services, Kodak chaning their terms of service, and one of the many examples of Facebook privacy issues. The one prompting this post is the recent (now reversed) decision to shutdown (a URL shortening service).

I don’t use URL shortening services very often, partly because I haven’t needed to and partly because I also don’t agree with them, but this type of action by has made me decided to setup my own. I’ll probably use one of the WordPress plugins, but Lifehacker has an article with other options.

I have all sorts of data that ranges from private data I need to keep (emails, document, financial records) to public data that I don’t care about (dents and tweets). In between is data that I care about, both private (family photos) and public (photos for competitions or that I have up on Flickr).

I have two rules:

  • If the data is private I try to store it at home (with appropriate backups) instead of on a remote service.
  • If I care about the data I make sure that it is stored at home, or if stored in the cloud I have a backup.

The first rule is why I still run my own IMAP server instead of shifting it out of the country to Google or similar. The second rule is why I still have all the originals for my photos that are on Flickr and why I have nightly cron jobs to backup this site, my delicious bookmarks, etc.

My data aside, it is interesting to see what othes are doing, and not just for their own data, but for others. One great example of this is the Archiveteam which is keeping track of services that are going down, but also steps in to try to preserve their data, as is happening with Geocities. Archiveteam is run by Jason Scott, creator of BBS: The Documentary. His blog post FUCK THE CLOUD prompted quite a reaction and now, six months later, it is still getting comments.

It isn’t just your own data that you should care about, but also any data that you rely on.

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A smaller, more portable tripod

Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 11:10pm

Don’t get me wrong, I am quite happy with my Manfrotto 190PROXB tripod with 486RC2 ball head that I have had since last November, but since the last camera outing I have been thinking about other options.

The tripod is excellent when I have used it for table top stuff at home (or the camera club) and on outings where I know that I will use it and there is an option of leaving it somewhere. But what about when I am doubtful that I will use it and/or I will have to carry it with me all of the time.

An example of the former is the third Melbourne Photo Walk where I carried my tripod for the entire walk because I knew that afterwards I would be taking some long exposures afterwards. While on the recent camera club outing to Melbourne’s laneways and arcades I decided before I left home that I would not take the tripod, which proved to be the right decision.

Even so, there where a couple of times that a tripod would have been good. So I have been looking at a Joby Gorillapod, specifically (due to the weight of my camera) the SLR-Zoom.

Although it wouldn’t fit in my current bag (a Lowepro SlingShot 100AW) I should be able to attach the SLR-Zoom to the outside without it getting in the way. But there is still a problem, how do I attach it to the camera.

Despite the marketing images, the SLR-Zoom only has a flat top with the thread attachment. The pictured ball head is an additional purchase which almost doubles the price from US$50 to US$95. Even then I wouldn’t be able to attach it to my camera, as I always leave the RC2 plate attached. So this gives me two options:

The 484RC2 will probably be the most cost effective option, and I regret now selling the one I had for a few months last year. Oh well, I should be able to get another one.

There is also plenty of discussion around using the Gorillapod, the Gorillapod Love Flickr pool for one with some examples of the 484RC2 in use.

In addition to holding the camera, the Gorillapod could also come in handy for holding my external flash. I could simply attach the foot that came with the flash to the second RC2 plate…

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An unexpected prize

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 at 10:14pm

When I uploaded my photos from the third Melbourne Photo Walk, I added a selection of them to the group pool. Although it wasn’t my primary intention, this selection of photos then put me in the running for a prize.

On Monday – before I found out the camera club competition results – I found out that this HDR image of the Cenotaph and Eternal flame in the Forecourt


… was one of two winners of a $50 voucher.

At the time I was still finalising what images I would submit for the September competition at the camera club. I had decided on which two I would submit as prints and I had a shortlist for digitial. This image was in the shortlist, but towards the bottom as I was more likely to submit this image of the Flagpoles on the other side of the Forecourt:


I had even gone as far as using GIMP to correct the perspective (so the flagpoles were not leaning over) and to clone out the couple of people. But then I decided to go with the Cenotaph/Eternal flame image.

As the people had moved in between the bracketed exposures the final image contained some extra body parts. It would have been too much work to remove the people entirely, so I just removed any excess body parts. Have a close look at the image on Flickr to see what I mean. I also changed to a tighter crop, but that is all I did before submitting it last night. Now it is a matter of waiting a month before I hear the results.

If I find some time on the weekend I will upload the modified flagpoles image to Flickr for comparison. I might even upload the current camera club competition entries. Previously I have waited until after I hear the results, but I don’t really have a compelling reason to wait.

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I would like to thank Strobist…

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 at 11:45pm

… because without his lunchbox technique, last night at the camera club would not have been as good.

Being the first Tuesday of the month it was a judging night. The topic was “Still life” and the judge was Adrian Smith. It was noted that while the number of entries were lower than normal, they were even lower than expected for a competition with a topic (compared to an “open” competition) as still life can be particularily difficult.

I had entered four images, two prints and two digital, so when the judging began I didn’t know what to expect. As it quickly became clear that Adrian has a preference for diagonals and that the photo needed to tell a story, my expectations fell.

I was wrong.

This image pretty much follows Strobist’s technique to the letter:

Stressed sports

As it was my second favourite image of those stress balls (my favourite would have worked square, but I had already cut the mount for 3:2) I got it printed. It received a highly commended award.

On the same night I experimented with all sorts of lighting and I thought this one using direct lighting came out quite well:

Stressed shapes

As I didn’t like it quite as much as the sport one (and I didn’t want to enter two prints that were pretty much the same) I entered it as a digital image, where it received a merit award.

While looking around for inspiration for still life I played around with various arrangements of the items I use to cut out the photo mounts and ended up with this:

Mounting equipment

I printed this out and it also recieved a merit.

By the time I got around to selecting my second digital image I had run out of ideas, so I grabbed one of my small Lego sets and shot it against a white background:

Snow Scooter

I like it, but it doesn’t really grab me. It didn’t grab the judge either and this didn’t earn any awards.

So, for a topic that I was not confident about I ended up with three awards. I am happy, except now I have to wait a month to find out about the images I submitted tonight, and I need to start finding images now for the following month’s competition: “Blue”

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