Scott's Thoughts

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?

CitySourced

In my neighborhood, we have a truck belonging to a local landscaper that semi-permanently parks on the street. It was originally very ugly: beat up and covered with graffiti. My wife, ever the neighborhood watchdog, called on it and it moved after the sheriff came and tagged it. It’s been back since, but at least now it’s cleaned up and has been painted. (She’s still on the war path, though. ;))

CitySourced, recently launched at TechCrunch 50, ought to be her new favorite service. It essentially allows you to report eyesores with your iPhone (other devices coming) and the service routes your reports to City Hall, or other appropriate authorities. I think it’s a great idea, and the pitch (about 10 minutes long) is worth taking the time to watch.

Of particular interest to me (and my wife) is that San Jose (where we live) is the first city that the company has signed on as a customer. I do wonder how sensitive it’ll be with regard to jurisdictions; we live in a small pocket in San Jose that’s unincorporated and is typically handled by the Sheriff’s department as opposed to SJPD. I guess we’ll find out as you can bet there’ll be a picture of that truck in CitySources soon after it opens to the public. ;)

Pre-Ordered: Panasonic GF1

I’ve mentioned the darned thing enough times that you might think my site is a link farm promoting the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1.

This is obviously not a link farm, but it’s certainly true that I’ve had this camera in my head since it was announced. I have a great SLR with great lenses, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s big. One of my main uses for a camera is that I want one to take mountain biking with me. To that end, I’ve owned most models in Canon’s G-series. They’re fine cameras, to be sure, and the recently announced G11 looks great. But the GF1 is only a little bigger (which I’m painfully aware can be a slippery slope), but has a significantly bigger sensor. That’ll undoubtedly lead to higher quality RAW images, which is of critical importance to me. Of lesser, but still significant importance, are the benefits of interchangeable lenses and the optional viewfinder, which I’ve also pre-ordered.

A good camera for photographing on a mountain bike ride requires, in addition to the obvious benefit of small size, speed when taking pictures. The small size enables me to wear it on my chest (in a case that I clip to my CamelBak), so I can access it easily. But the action is usually fast and often takes place in dark, covered places. So the f/1.7 lens that accompanies the kit that I’ve pre-ordered is exactly the kind of thing I want. An even wider-angle, fast prime would be great, too. That challenging lighting environment should also highlight the superior sensor, given the dynamic range frequently involved.

As secondary motivation, I intend to use the GF1 as my “go-everywhere camera”. I imagine I’ll typically leave the viewfinder attached when using it this way (as opposed to leaving it off to minimize the size when biking). I can further imagine that the GF1 will find itself taking many images of my daughter while we’re on the go and the SLR wasn’t on the packing list. As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you, and I hope I’ll do better at taking this one with me than I have in the past. I’ll probably try and make a semi-formal project of taking the camera with me frequently, but that can be a post for another time.

As for the pre-ordering itself, it’s the first time I’ve ever ordered a camera before I’ve held it. One thing that was holding me back was the lack of support of its RAW format in my image organizer/editor of choice, Adobe’s Lightroom. Alas, they just announced support for it in Lightroom and Photoshop (via Camera RAW 5.5), handily removing that obstacle and further backing my choice to switch from Aperture to Lightroom (many revisions ago). Besides, I ordered it from Amazon, so I know that the return policy is good if the handling turns out to be abysmal. I’m hoping that the camera is everything it seems to be.

Different Camera, Different App

Good tip on how to use Snow Leopard to set a different app to open on a per-camera basis.

MS Waves To Wine 2009


For the second year in a row, I’ll be joining my friend Penny and her PenPals team in the Waves To Wine ride, benefitting the National MS Society. If you can, please visit my page there and consider a small donation on my behalf.

I plan on doing this and the Livestrong ride annually, and I hate asking for money, and this is the least aggressive way I can think of to do that. Anyway, it’s a good cause and I appreciate anything that’s sent their way via my participation.

Thanks!

Hubble Is Back With New Stunning Images

Wonderful shots from Hubble, as usual. I never get tired of looking at stuff like this.

Incredible Urban Riding

Awesome riding.

Thom Hogan’s Olympus E-P1 Review

Thom Hogan normally reviews Nikon equipment, but has been using an Olympus E-P1 as his small travel camera for a recent trip to Africa, and written has a long review of it. It has an extensive section on its handling, which I think is probably the most important thing to consider in a camera like this.

As I’ve said before, I love the direction that Olympus has taken here, and I’m thrilled to see the camera manufacturers now doing battle in this important market segment. I won’t buy an E-P1, but it’s a matter of time before I jump in.

GF1 Hands-On Preview

Check out this excellent hands-on preview of the GF-1, which has a direct comparison with the E-P1 and some extended discussion from a photographer who has spent some time shooting with each. The GF1 is sounding pretty awesome.

One thing I did get wrong in my earlier post about the GF1 is that I said that it has in-body IS, which it does not. That’s an advantage to the E-P1, although I’d much rather have fast, accurate autofocus if I had to choose.