Scott's Thoughts

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.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 hands-on

Engadget has a hands-on with the GF-1 I posted about previously, and it looks great to me. The EVF (shown near the end of the embedded video) looks great. The one on the E-P1 is there solely for framing, and has none of the data that’s available in this one. I also thought the UI, despite being in Spanish and Japanese for the demos, looks much nicer than the Olympus’. The styling isn’t as retro-cool as the E-P1, but still looks good as far as I’m concerned.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one to play with.

It’s Official: The Panasonic GF1

I got to play a bit yesterday with the E-P1, and was impressed with how solid it felt. I didn’t like the control system much, though—the thumb-scroll thingy was a bit wonky for my taste. And manual focusing felt really awkward.

Now there’s competition in the form of the Panasonic GF1. It fixes a couple of the E-P1’s perceived issues: slowish AF and no available electronic viewfinder. The EVF is a clip on, but I’m OK with that. I’d probably leave it behind for mountain biking and other times where a compact size is critical, but having it really would improve the handling, if my short time with the E-P1 is any indication.

IS in the body is great. Combined with a screaming fast 20mm f/1.7 lens, this could really be a winner.

Matte Screens

Apple is finally offering a matte screen option on the 15-in MacBook Pro. The matte screen was the main reason I went for a 17-inch MBP when I bought mine, and I probably would have gotten the 15 had it been available. Now that I have the 17, I’m glad I got it, but it’s great to see Apple bring this back, even if it does cost $50 extra.

Panasonic GF 1

Competition for the E-P1? Awesome. Let’s hope other manufacturers start competing in this space too. The Four-Thirds group may have found a great niche and real advantage here.

Sad News for Team Fatty

When I decided to ride in the San Jose Livestrong Challenge, I decided to ride in memory of my grandmother, who died of cancer when I was young. When I told Val that I was signing up, she reminded me of a site called Fat Cyclist that she’s read for a long time.

The wife of the author of the site, Susan, has been fighting cancer for some time, and the site has become something of a rallying point in the wider fight against cancer. Teams had formed in each of the Livestrong cities to raise money in Susan’s honor. I hadn’t followed the blog, but after reading some of the articles, I joined Team Fatty.

I’ve never met Susan or her husband, but their stories have been touching, inspiring and sometimes so honest and open that they’re difficult to read. Sadly, yesterday’s post had more of those qualities than most. Susan has passed away.

Susan’s family and friends have my sincere condolences, and I wish that I could have done something more than the miniscule act of joining their team.

Another Olympus Pen E-P1 Review

Wired is running a review on the E-P1 I discussed earlier on. It has an important point that I hadn’t heard before:

The three-inch LCD is clear and bright, and that’s good, because with no viewfinder you’re relying on it to compose your shots. That can make manual focusing an exercise in Heisenbergian ambiguity: You can either be in focus or have a well-framed shot, but not both. When you turn the focus ring, the viewfinder zooms in to a tiny detail of the frame, letting you easily judge the clarity, but also robbing you of the ability to see the whole picture. It’s like composing shots by looking through a long cardboard tube.

That’s a significant limitation. I can imagine manually focusing this camera a lot, given its reported autofocus limitations, but this might make that too ungainly too.

There’s been a rumor floating around that an E-P2 with an integrated viewfinder might be on its way. Come on, E-P2!

HBO lets TV critics know it’s back

I’m sure Goodman’s right, but after HBO let several of their great series die without replacing them, I was one of those who left. It especially burned that they let Deadwood die without a satisfying end. It was super disappointing, and a black eye for a channel known for such great shows. I liked a lot of HBO’s shows back then, and Deadwood was the last one I’d have let die at the time, were I in their shoes.

Now I check out the shows via Netflix when they hit DVD. Maybe someday they’ll get my trust back and I’ll re-subscribe. I promise I’ll do it if they wrap up Deadwood!

Texting Raises Crash Risk 23 Times, Study Finds

Holy cow!

Everyone “knows” that texting while driving is dangerous, but here’s proof. It’s clearly more dangerous than simply talking on the phone.

Of the 2,501 drivers surveyed this spring, 95 percent said that texting was unacceptable behavior. Yet 21 percent of drivers said they had recently texted or e-mailed while driving.

Wow.

(via Daring Fireball)

Kanga Roddy Spotted at the Soquel Demonstration Forest


In what now seems like a former life, I worked for a small television production company on a children’s show called Adventures with Kanga Roddy. OK, it was really about 11 years ago, but the show hasn’t been on the air in years.

This past Saturday, Erik (who also worked on that show, oddly enough) and I were riding at the Soquel Demonstration Forest (aka Demo) and saw the strangest thing: a VHS video tape of the show, wedged in a tree trunk.

So. Freaking. Bizarre.

1TB Laptop HDD

I’ve been hoping that SSD prices would drop and capacities would rise to a point where I could justify getting one. But a 1TB drive in my MacBook Pro sure sounds great.

Update: Turns out that TUAW reports that it’s too high for a MBP at 12.5mm. Darn.

Don’t Let It Go To Your Head, AT&T


I was recently listening to episode 1025 of Buzz Out Loud, in which they were discussing AT&T’s recent revelation that their current customer churn rate is the lowest in that carrier’s history despite recent loud complaints about the low quality of their service. That discussion pointed out that such disparity between the public conversation about AT&T’s lack of quality (dropped calls, slow network performance, no coverage in areas in major cities, missing key features due to the network) and the metrics that company inevitably uses to decide what its priorities are can only lead them to believe that their current course is a good one.

Personally, I’ve been relatively happy with AT&T. At least I’ve been as happy as one gets with a cell phone carrier, which I’ve determined is like being happy with a parasitic organism in your body: if you have to have one, you want the least malignant one you can get. Their customer service has been fine when I needed to use it and the service generally works when I need it to.

However, 3G service is worse than non-existent in my home. How can it be worse? Well, there’s enough that I get the smallest possible amount of 3G signal in parts of the house, so it causes the phone to toggle from the 3G network to the older one constantly. It’s been this way for over a year. The net effect is that I frequently miss calls if my phone is in 3G mode, and the battery runs down very quickly. Consequently, I leave my shiny new iPhone 3GS with its 3G capabilities turned off unless I’m out-and-about and using the network capabilities a lot.

I should point out that I don’t live in the boonies, either. I’m in San Jose, a respectable technology center, and only a 5-minute drive from an Apple Store or downtown San Jose. Heck, I can easily walk to either. And it’s not isolated to just my place. There are many, many spots where this happens. Nor is it my phone: I’ve had 2 iPhone 3Gs and 1 iPhone 3GS, and it’s the same on all of them. I can also confirm reports that there are places in downtown San Francisco that simply have no reception at all. Completely unacceptable.

Let’s make no mistake: the thing that ensures I stay with AT&T is the iPhone.

My point? If the conclusion AT&T arrives at when studying its great customer retention numbers is that its current level of service is acceptable to its users, it would do well to recognize that there are those of us who love our iPhones, and AT&T is just the baggage that we have to put up with to have one. (Yes, there are ways to get the iPhone on other networks, such as T-Mobile locally, but that’s even worse than AT&T, in my experience.) If we get the chance to move to Verizon, whose network coverage is much, much better than AT&T’s, I think AT&T will be shocked the next time it reviews those same customer retention metrics.

AT&T, this good deal you have with Apple over the iPhone has given you a huge boost in this market. Ignore these metrics that might tell you that you’re doing the right thing in letting network capacity lag the competition. Instead, invest all you can in making your network better than the competition and when your exclusivity over the iPhone ends, we might just stay with you. But continue to allow your network quality to lag behind what the subscribers want and deny them access to the features they should have (MMS, tethering) and I bet you’ll witness an exodus of customers the moment a better alternative presents itself.

AP Fail

The AP is apparently looking to become as popular as other industry consortiums like the RIAA and MPAA. I guess they’re hoping that by wrapping their stories in DRM that they’ll be able to leverage the DMCA against anyone who uses the content of their members in court.

I think they’ll find the written word is much harder to protect than a digital song or movie. And while the DMCA might prove a valuable weapon, the laws regarding the use of written words are more defined than their newer kin. I think that all they’re doing is proving that groups such as these are anachronisms, waiting for their inevitable deaths at the hands of a public tired of being nickel-and-dimed.