Scott's Thoughts

The Effect of Technology on Writing

I read two interesting articles today on the effect technology is having on writing skills, and I thought I’d pass them along.

Whither Handwriting?

First, schools are apparently teaching cursive handwriting later than they used to, and placing less emphasis on it than they did when I was a kid.

I would be OK with dropping penmanship as a required school-taught skill, insofar as that means writing in cursive. I stopped writing in cursive as soon as I moved to high school and my teachers stopped requiring it. I write in all capital letters, and have done so for such a long time that I’m super slow when writing in cursive. I fall into the pattern that the article seems to describe: short of note-taking, all of my writing is done via an electronic input method such as keyboard or touch screen.

Note that I’m not advocating not teaching kids how to write. The ability to write longhand is critical, but I don’t see that writing in cursive really is. I would be OK with dropping cursive writing altogether, other than perhaps as an artistic endeavor, perhaps replacing it with shorthand. I’ve always thought it would be neat to have learned to write in shorthand for note-taking, but never gone so far as to learn how.

Digital Writing Renaissance

The other article dealt with the skill of writing, suggesting that the current generation use writing as a form of communication far more frequently than past generations have. I write fairly frequently and find that my behavior has mapped to what the author suggests: I typically write to a known audience of more than one person (and in the blogging case, a unknown number of unknown readers). I do use social networking sites, and also write small updates there on a daily basis. I can see how these activities might be looked down upon by some people as degenerate forms of writing, but I would disagree that this is the case.

While many people are pretty careless writers where spelling and grammar are concerned, let’s face the fact that many people who aren’t great writers probably wouldn’t write as often as they do without these low-ceremony outlets. And there’s nothing stopping people who would like to write more correctly in those environments from doing so. As far as I can tell, that’s a win-win situation, and I hope it continues.

Thoughts on GF1 Shipping and GPS

People state-side are starting to take delivery of their GF1s if they ordered them from Panasonic’s online store, which I find pretty amazing, really. Other than Apple, I can’t think of too many electronics companies who actually ship orders to customers directly faster than Amazon can—certainly no camera company I’ve ever dealt with has. This has the effect of Amazon customers chomping at the bit to get their cameras. My pre-order hasn’t even been updated with a shipping date, which doesn’t fill me with confidence that I’ll get mine soon, although I can always hope. In fact, Amazon has a shipping date of tomorrow for the GF1 kit with the zoom lens and no date for the 20mm f/1.7 I ordered, whereas the people who ordered the 20mm are the ones getting theirs now and the zoom lens customers there haven’t heard anything. Weird.

I’ve been spending some time reading the boards about peoples' impressions with the camera, and they’ve all been really good so far. The low-light capabilities seem good up to 800 and the 1600 results haven’t been half-bad either. The 20mm lens really looks to be stellar for a kit lens, which is refreshing; it’s half the reason I’m attracted to this camera.

Speaking of what attracts me to the GF1, the main draw was its size. That’s still the main “feature” of the camera (in fact, it’s really a little bigger than I’d prefer, but I realize that it’s the best physical size-to-sensor size ratio I’m likely to get in a package that handles well (the Sigma cameras have been dinged in reviews for being fairly slow to work with). I realize that means that other features have to be cut out. But there’s one feature I really wish the GF1 had: GPS.

As I mentioned earlier, my primary interest in this camera is as a take-everywhere camera. And by “everywhere”, I’m including mountain bike riding. That’s why size and handling are important—I need it to not weigh me down and I need to be able to draw it and have it ready to shoot quickly. But since it’ll be used all over the place, and bike rides can cover quite some distance, it would be wonderful to have the camera recording GPS locations for the shots.

That said, I already carry a GPS on my bike and the GF1 doesn’t include GPS, so I’ll probably look into syncing up their clocks and using software to add location info to the EXIF data to the pictures.

Windows 7 Party

Hahahaha! It’s amazing what a few bleeps do for this terrible, terrible video.

iTunes 9.0.1 update restores ‘maximize’ button behavior: why?

The other day, after downloading iTunes 9, I tweeted that I was happy that iTunes finally had a normal maximize button. I think the behavior of linking the maximize button to switching to the mini-player, is dumb. Looks now like they’ve reverted to that behavior with the 9.0.1 update. Lame.

The Best Camera…TM?

If you read photography sites, you couldn't miss Chase Jarvis' announcment of his The Best Camera trifecta of iPhone app, book and community site. The long and the short of it is that Jarvis has been shooting pics with his iPhone for several months, taking some great shots along the way, making the point that if the iPhone's camera is the one you've got, there's no excuse to miss a shot. He's now got his own iPhone app for taking photos and the community site to back the app up. His upcoming book is filled with his own iPhone shots.

Personally, I think all that is great, and Chase's blog is certainly great reading and plenty inspiring. What I did find kind of offensive is that he's apparently trademarked (or perhaps just applied for a trademark for) the line "the best camera is the one that's with you."

This line has certainly seen a resurgence of use lately (hell, I used it a few posts back), and while that resurgence might be due in part to Chase Jarvis, the line itself has been around awhile--certainly before I'd ever heard of him, anyway. And even if it was something he coined, it just feels wrong when you see it spelled out with the TM right after it. Hopefully the community slaps his hand a bit, he backs off and enjoys the otherwise positive buzz that the apps and his book seem to be otherwise receiving.

Amazing Sydney Red Dust Storm


Inner city dust storm, originally uploaded by Marilia Ogayar.

Apparently there's an incredible storm going on right now in Sydney that has the whole place covered in red dust, as shown in this Flickr gallery.

There are some really amazing shots in there.

(Also, this is a use of the new gallery feature that Flickr introduced recently, where you can select a bunch of photos to "curate" in an online gallery of your own. Pretty cool.)

Ainsley On Her Tricycle


Ainsley On Her Tricycle, originally uploaded by Stmpjmpr.

Interbike Pics


Turner DHR DW, originally uploaded by Passion Trail Bikes.

Charles from Passion Trail Bikes is at Interbike (a bike industry trade show) in Vegas right now, and is riding a ton of new bikes and taking pictures along the way. If that kind of thing interests you (and it makes me sad if it doesn’t), you should follow his Flickr Photostream this week.
(The bike in the pic is the new Turner DHR with the DW-Link rear suspension. Sweet.)

Pacifica Ride

Pacifica is a beautiful place on the California coast just south of San Francisco. It has a reputation in the Bay Area as always being foggy, but that’s really not the case, at least not all of it. It certainly wasn’t this past Sunday, when most of the Bay Area was pretty hot and a group of us decided to get an early-for-us start on a ride there.

Some of the mountain biking Pacifica is best known for is a steep rocky area with several trails on it: Boy Scout, Mile and Crack. We planned on hitting some of the steep descents, so most of us broke out the heavy gear such as full-face helmets and armor, normally not used by us in the Bay Area.

Getting to the top requires some fairly serious hike-a-bike. One used to have to climb all the way up along the same route that one descends, which I’m sure you can imagine isn’t optimal, with other bikers flying down at near terminal velocity in sections. The locals have built a new set of switchbacks parallel to the descending line which, while it doesn’t keep you completely off the descent, is far better than it used to be. The new trail is really soft and narrow, with lots of freshly cut poison oak encroaching on it, so I’m hoping it gets some use to bed it in and push the vegetation back a bit.

It got pretty hot by the time we reached the top, and I wasn’t feeling too well. “Crack”, the fall line trail that we descended first, is a steep, rocky and sometimes loose affair. One of its challenges is that there’s no warm-up to get accustomed to that type of riding—it just starts at 100% and keeps on going. Those things combined to keep me pretty conservative the first half of the way, which isn’t how this kind of ride should go. I think the next time I go, I’ll plan to stop and session some of the features on Crack and get some extra practice in on this terrain.

Below Crack is Boy Scout, which has a lot of built-up jumps. I don’t really jump much, and although some of our crew have been practicing, a lot of the stuff on Boy Scout is still beyond their skill set. We did play around on the jumps for quite some time, and some local kids were there showing us fogeys how to do it.

The bottom of Boy Scout is a lot of fun. There are some steep drops, railing berms and some g-outs and jumps that are within our skills, and just a ripping good time. Unfortunately, the altitude gained at the start passes by all too quickly on the way down, and I think a lot of the group felt like it wasn’t a lot of return for the effort put it, especially on such a hot day. It was still fun, and I really think sessioning it would be fun.

Here is a link to the pictures, and here is a link to the GPS details.

Circumnavigating the World on a Bike

Man, I rode 75 miles the other day and it felt like I rode a long way. This guy is circumnavigating the globe in about 150 days, which is downright incredible. Taking geotagged pics along the way hits a geek trifecta for me of bikes, photography and GPS. Very cool!

Are bath-time photos child pornography?

This story, taken at face value, is abominable. I can’t believe that there are too many families who don’t have pictures of their children without clothes on. I certainly have some of Ainsley. In fact, I have one, that I would normally share (but won’t in a post about how someone else got reamed so badly for similar photos) of her taking a bath in her rubber ducky bathtub. It’s adorable and I’m sure it will be a great photo for family memories down the line.

I think it’s amazing that so many people could be involved in a prosecution of something so instinctively normal to parents. Perhaps that means that there was more to this specific case, but it’s still off-putting to me.

Ainsley

It’s been a long time since I’ve uploaded any pics. I’ve got a bunch more to process too.

Credit Line Helmet Cam Action

Brian shot some video with my helmet cam while up in BC this summer. Here’s one of Credit Line:

Check out his YouTube channel for more.

Panasonic GF-1 with Leica M mount lens

Lovely!

Some Dollhouse Tidbits

I was really surprised to hear that Dollhouse was renewed for a second season. I thought the first had some promise, but didn’t quite get there. And there’s certainly plenty of precedent for Fox killing off sci-fi shows that were better.

But they did renew it, and some of the stuff getting out there sounds pretty good to me. I hope they can pull it together for a great season two.

Snow Leopard Tip: Reveal Hidden Files in Dialog Boxes

In the standard open and save dialog boxes in Snow Leopard, press Command-Shift-. to reveal hidden files.

(via Finer Things in Mac)

I Don’t Care About MMS

It seems like everyone has harped on Apple about the lack of MMS support in the iPhone since its inception. Now that the iPhone can do it, everyone’s bitching about AT&T holding it up.

My $0.02: I absolutely could not care less about MMS. If AT&T is spending any resource on this at all that could instead be used instead to give better basic phone coverage (let alone 3G coverage), I’d be pissed to hear it. I just don’t want anyone’s pictures directed at my phone that badly. Got a good pic? Great. Email it to me or put it on Flickr or something.

Registered for RubyConf

I missed the original registration window by a few minutes, but I just got registered for RubyConf after being on the wait list. It’s nice to have it close to home (it’s in San Francisco), instead of having to fly somewhere. I’m looking forward to it—RubyConf is one of the more interesting conferences I’ve attended.

No Shoes In The House

I recognize that I’m a guest, invited to your house, and that there’s a responsibility incumbent upon me to respect the rules of your home. Therefore, when you ask me to remove my shoes at your front door, I’ll do it and not complain. This post is my passive-aggressive way of telling you, since you apparently care enough about my opinions to be reading my blog, that I think that it’s rude to essentially suggest that your floors are more important than the comfort of your guests.

Yes, I’ve seen sites that tell of how much dirt is tracked in on shoes. Yes, I recognize that kids play on floors. No, that doesn’t make me any more comfortable taking my shoes off and putting them back on every time I cross your home’s threshold. And no, I really, really don’t want to wear the slippers you’ve provided in the bucket by the front door.

What do I want to wear? My shoes. You know, the ones I’ve paid a lot of money for. The ones I picked out this morning when I decided what to wear on the occasion of my visit to your home. Did you think I picked the ones that I wore when doing trail work the other day? If so, I promise that’s not ever going to happen, or I’ll volunteer to take them off without you having a rule requiring it of all guests to your home to cover your bases.

We’re friends, so I’m not going to make a bigger issue of this, other than to blog about it. You know, sort of get it off of my chest. And to also say, that when you come to my house, please keep your shoes on. My floors can take it, I can take it and my kid can take it. Wiping them on the provided mat is appreciated, though. :)

My Wish List For The Apple TV

There’s a lot of speculation on the net right now about what the near future holds for the Apple TV. This has largely been brought on by recent changes to the lineup, namely the demise of the low-end model and the price reduction on the remaining one. That, coupled with the long time since the last real update have brought the analysts out of the woodwork.

I’ve had an Apple TV since the second rev, when they lowered the price and bumped the hard drive capacity to 160 GB. I’m lucky enough to also have a TiVo, so I’ve never been one who really clamored for the Apple TV to become a full-fledged DVR. I think that if Apple decided to jump into this market, they could probably do a good job, but it’s been pretty clear that they want no part of it, and it’s probably better that way.

I tend to think of the Apple TV as simply a conduit to get my iTunes-purchased video onto my HDTV and music piped through my speakers. I’ll occasionally rent a movie or buy a missed TV show on the device, and for these things it works well. The killer app that made me buy it really was its small form factor. I like that it’s very easy to put a bunch of content on the Apple TV, and move it to the trailer at the start of a trip. Then I have that content combined with my normal music library in the trailer. It’s really a pretty good device for this kind of travel.

Here are a few things that I’d like to see improved:

  1. I’d love for the Apple TV to have a folder that I could through video into and have it sync to the Apple TV. For this to really work, it has to be able to play it. That’s a long way of saying that I want the Apple TV to gracefully handle pretty much any type of video I throw at it. Think of the VLC player and you’ve got the right idea.
  2. I’d like to see the restrictions on movie rentals relaxed. I’m happy enough to pay for rentals, but having to finish a movie within 24 hours of starting it is a pain-in-the-ass. I paid for it already—let me watch it on my own timeline.
  3. I understand that the movie industry controls when something can be rented or purchased. Let me be clear: I’ll never pay to “own” a movie on the Apple TV. If I want to own a movie, I’ll get the DVD or Blu-ray. If we must have this division, let me hide the new-for-purchase-only track altogether.
  4. The HD tax seems kind of steep for TV episodes. I don’t mind paying the $1 tax for the better quality in a movie, but $1 extra for a TV episode makes me wince.
  5. Let me set a preference that I always want HD, and make it the default unless I explicitly say I want SD, or HD isn’t available.
  6. I frequently find myself hunting for stuff in the menus, which is pretty un-Apple-like. For instance, I might finish watching an episode of a TV show, and want to immediately get the next one. That requires a surprising amount of menu-hunting.
  7. In-show navigation could use some work. Fast-forward and rewind need those touches that TiVo has that take your reaction time into account. Also from the TiVo: I’d love to have a skip back a couple of seconds button.

I don’t have a huge list, obviously. It does what I want for the most part, but it really hasn’t revolutionized my life either. I’d love to see Apple really decide this segment is important to them and have them surprise me like they did with the iPod. I’d really love for them to make it possible for me to kill my cable subscription, but I know that’s asking a lot. But the iPhone was asking a lot too, wasn’t it?