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Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit


I purchased a Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit for my Nikon D40 DSLR.  Mostly I purchased the flash unit because I’d read some good reviews, it’s very small and compact, it’s inexpensive (about $99 online), and I had enough credit card point to pay for it (and nothing else I really wanted).

When I got the unit I was impressed with how small it was.  I’d expect it to be a little larger than it was, but I was quit happy (for reference, it’s about the size of the battery plus battery charger, but lighter).

The instruction manual is clear and simple (you can download that from the Nikon web site if you want to review it).  Attaching the flash and using it with a Nikon DSLR is straight forward.  You can also review the key features and specifications on Nikon’s site, I’m not going to copy them here.  See the end of the post for the URL for the Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit.

I immediately shot a dozen images inside under conditions ranging from almost not needing a flash (fill) to almost total darkness — with a distance of just a few feet to right around ten feet (all my tests were done bouncing the flash off the ceiling in landscape orientation — the flash only tilts, it doesn’t swivel, so you can’t bounce from the ceiling in portrait orientation).

The images I took that used the flash in fill mode turned out exceptionally well; and really showed off what an asset a small flash unit like this can be.  The images I took that used the flash in near darkness showed that this unit really isn’t capable alone of being used under those conditions, and you really should consider a dual flash setup if you’re going to shoot in total darkness).

My absolute biggest complaint with the flash unit is that it exacerbates my biggest complaint with the D40 — the body is so light, it has an unusual center of gravity (even with a small lens on it), by adding the flash unit it makes the center of gravity even worse.  NOTE:  The only solution to this I’ve read of is adding a battery grip, and while that would help pull the center of gravity back and down, it would make the camera substantially larger; and many of those units are reported not to work very well.


  • Small
  • Light
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Works well as a fill flash in landscape orientation
  • Well constructed
  • Uses two AA batteries


  • Not suited for near total darkness conditions
  • Does not swivel for use in portrait orientation

Personally I’d say the unit is an incredible value, and well suited for a number of indoor applications.  The one that came to mind immediately was using it to take pictures of small items you were going to sell online.  Of course it also works well for any type of general indoor photography, but you’ll have to get used to shooting in landscape (even in conditions where the subject matter is obviously portrait) and just crop down the image.

Would I recommend buying one.  Well, I think you have to consider what you want to use it for.  If you want something that’s very small, very inexpensive, you’re only going to use it indoors, and you can tolerate the landscape only limitation — sure, buy it… you’ll be quite happy with it.  But if you can afford to pay more, can tolerate a larger unit, and need to shoot outdoors or absolutely require portrait I think you’ll be happier with another unit.

Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit

Originally posted 2009-02-16 01:00:43.


I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.
· Buddha

Originally posted 2011-03-24 01:00:04.

Google Voice and POTS

So you’re one of the dwindling number of Americans that has a wire line telephone in their home (generally referred to as POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service)… and you’d like to cut down on your bill as much as possible.

Well, just like with cell phones, perhaps you need to consider Google Voice.

Why pay the Telco for voice mail; Google Voice will give you that for free.

Why pay the Telco for long distance; Google Voice will give you that for free.

Why pay the Telco for unlimited dialing; provided you have an internet connection (broadband or cellular), Goolge Voice will give you that for free (you’d only need the limited dial plan).

Here’s the skinny (so to speak)…

Since you’re reading a BLOG post I’m going to assume that you’re “connected” — which means you have the ability to use the Internet (through something other than dial-up)…

Setup a Google Voice account NOW.  That means you’ll probably have to request a Google Voice invitation to go with your Gmail account.

Once you’ve done that, just hookup your Google Voice number to your land line and start using your Google Voice number for everything (you probably don’t want to pay for call forwarding — so you’re going to end up re-training people to call another number).

Then call up your Telco and get rid of Caller ID, Call Waiting, Voice Mail, long distance packages, and unlimited dialing (go with the limited rate plan — and if you’re low income, make sure you take advantage of the Universal Access rates).

Just keep your browser open to Google Voice and you can quickly see who’s calling (or setup Google Voice to announce it to you when you answer the phone); and you can have Google Voice place all your local and long distance calls (it’ll call you, so that won’t count towards your out-bound calling units).  If you miss a call, it goes to Google Voice, and you’ll get a transcription of the message via email or you can read it on the web site… or if the transcription isn’t good, you can play the recording or even have Google Voice call you so you can hear it over the phone.

Google Voice will keep a log of each and every number that calls you — plus give you a great deal of flexibility in blocking un-wanted calls.

Also, if you want to stop people from calling your home number, simply have the Telco change it (there will be a fee unless you’ve had issues with harassment) and have them list the new number under a name like “Solicitation Prohibited” — no need to pay them for an unlisted or unpublished number (you can have your listing any name that’s use doesn’t constitute fraud).

Remember, keep the money in your pocket — no reason to feel sorry for the dwindling profits from the Telcos that have been nickel and diming to death all these years and provide you with telecommunications services that haven’t improved substantially in decades.

Originally posted 2010-10-18 02:00:12.

Ubuntu – Disk Utility

When you install Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop, the default menu item for Disk Utility isn’t extremely useful; after all, it’s on the System->Administration menu, so you would assume that it’s meant to administer the machine, not just view the disk configuration.

What I’m alluding to is that by default Disk Utility (/usr/bin/palimpsest) is not run with elevated privileges (as super-user), but rather as the current user — which if you’re doing as you should be, that’s means you won’t be able to effect any changes, and Disk Utility will probably end up being a waste of time and effort.

To correct this problem all you need do is modify the menu item which launches Disk Utility to elevate your privileges before launching (using gksu) — that, of course, assumes that you’re permitted to elevate your privileges.

To do add privilege elevation to disk utility:

  1. Right click your mouse on the menu bar along the top (right on system is good) and select ‘edit menu items’
  2. Navigate down to ‘administration’ and select it in the left pane
    Select ‘disk utility’ in the right pane
  3. Select ‘properties’ in the buttons on the right
  4. Under ‘command’ prefix it with ‘gksu’ or substitute ‘gksu /usr/bin/palimpsest’ (putting the entire path there)
  5. Then click ‘close’ and ‘close’ again…

Originally posted 2010-06-27 02:00:33.

The Media Home

It may come as a shock to you, but computers are here to stay, and there’s at least one in almost every home in the country.

Computers in the home are becoming a “fabric” around which we build and manage our lives, our communications, and our entertainment to enumerate just a few critical areas.

But, almost nothing plays nicely together… and that’s a real problem for the average consumer who’s never figured out how to set the clock on their microwave oven!

A sleepy little company in Redmond, Washington introduced a product they call “Windows Home Server”… it’s really not a revolutionary product, it’s more just a repackaging of technology they already had — it’s just designed to be easy to install and maintain; and it’s targeted at the home market (much like Small Business Server was to the small business without an IT staff).

Why has Microsoft targeted a product like this at the home market?

Easy — he who defines the fabric of the home network is most likely to reap the rewards in controlling the devices the consumer buys for them.

Microsoft has tried for years to get low end versions of Windows into just about everything (Windows CE, Windows Mobile, etc)… and the Microsoft Home Server is another attempt at that.

Now since we have cell phones, music players, video players, navigation systems, and a host of other things built on top of Windows, Microsoft is making the move to make everything work together — well, at least sort of work together (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve deleted the partnership between my phone and my PC to get them to sync).

But the key is here, they will target the consumer, and the consumer will most likely purchase additional hardware and software that is “certified” to work.

Certainly Microsoft isn’t the only company chasing after control of the infrastructure; but they are one of the biggest… and certainly wisdom would suggest that you not put yourself firmly in the cross hairs of a market segment Microsoft is targeting.

Bottom line is, keep your eyes open for a host of products for the home that leverage off of Microsoft core technology that attempt to bring the average consumer into the digital media era.

Originally posted 2008-06-05 01:10:52.

Rip & Burn

 ImgBurn uses a user interface similar to DVD Decrypter (which was used to decrypt and rip DVDs); however, ImgBurn is designed to create and burn images of non-encrypted discs.

It supports a wide variety of disc formats, and has a number of additional features for building images and verifying them.

Definitely a tool well worth twice the price; maybe ten times the price!

Oh yeah, it’s free…

Originally posted 2008-11-29 12:00:15.

Hidden Evil

Many of my friends and I have engaged in intellectual discussions about the evils of society and what most needs to be fixed.

Views of what’s evil, though, largely depend on your perspective — social liberals might call something evil that a fiscal conservative feels is simply just; and vice-versa.

If you’re a conspiracy buff you’ll enjoy reading through the TheHiddenEvil.com.  Volume I contains a number of factoids, and draws interesting conclusions (I’m certainly not going to say I agree with any or all of them).  Volume II builds on Volume I to make some fairly remarkable assertions — of maybe they’re just hard to believe (or hard to read without a giggle or two at least).

With disinformation an accepted practice of government, organized religion, and business it’s always hard to say definitively what is true and what is a shade of gray.

Originally posted 2010-01-22 02:00:23.

Religious Intolerance or Insensitivity?

One has to ask the question, why would a US Congressman choose to use a facility with a religious affiliation when a public facility is only a few blocks from the chosen site and many public facilities exist within a short distance from the chosen structure?

While this is not a violation of the US Constitution (Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or Article VI) it is an extremely poor choice and one can only conclude that the intent is for it to be a public endorsement of a single religious belief and a rejection of the beliefs of those whose are different.  My guess is the congressman would never ask a christian to step foot into a mosque (there is a mosque not far from the church that was chosen — perhaps he might decide to hold another meeting there soon).

It’s easy to see how hate is promoted in American society when elected official either actively feed it or are just insensitive to the differences that once made this country strong…

I object to any pandering of intolerance.

Congressman Miller Townhall Meeting
Tuesday, August 16
7:00 p.m. CT

Marcus Pointe Baptist Church
Main Worship Center
6205 North W Street
Pensacola, FL 32505


Original Link: http://jeffmiller.house.gov/news/email/show.aspx?ID=KV2BK2PRUC2HK6XTHVVK6ONOY4

Originally posted 2011-08-12 02:00:36.

Windows 8.1

The Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT updates are out, and the start button is back (though you could re-enable it with a number of hacks) if you want it — Metro is still available (and always there).

While those with touch devices may not see why the start button might be preferred, those who still have to use a mouse or other pointing device definitely will appreciate not needing to emulate finger swipes any longer.

The other big change is that SkyDrive is now installed by default (but no greater storage for free to Windows 8.1 users than anyone who just installs SkyDrive or just sets up a SkyDrive account).

The Windows 8.1 update is easy and free to install for Windows 8 users; however, Windows 7 users (or previous) will need to install Windows 8 first.

You can find a number of lengthy reviews of Windows 8.1 on line, but if you’re a Windows 8 users it’s an update you’ll probably want to install.  If you’re a Windows 7 user there may be no real motivation to upgrade.

Update to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8

Originally posted 2013-11-14 17:00:41.

CompactCMS Review

CompactCMS is an extremely light weight and fast Content Management Solution (CMS).  Actually it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a CMS, it’s more like a content management foundation.

CompactCMS is an open source software project and is totally free (nothing related to it has any costs or restrictions beyond the Creative Commons License).

No question it makes managing a small site very easy, and it has a huge selection of (free) CSS templates that offer a wide variety of layouts and appearances.

Why do I say it’s a foundation?

Simple, it provides the basic of editing pages and content, builds a sitemap — but it really doesn’t offer modules that provide enhanced capabilities.  Now in it’s defense, it does provide the ability to build pages that can call PHP directly, but it doesn’t provide any framework to use managed content within your PHP code (well — you can access the MySQL database directly, but there’s zero abstraction).

Several days ago I made a comment about most users only need a two page (mostly static) web site — and that’s true, and CompactCMS certainly provides that ability to users with very little understanding of web editing (it certainly provided more than that to users who have some understanding of web editing).

The main problem with CompactCMS for users who just don’t know anything at all about web technology is it requires a little understanding of how to setup a database, import a schema, and edit configuration files (by hand).  Yeah, that’s not really much to ask a techie for sure, but there’s lots of people who know where the power button is on their computer, but re-arrange the icons on the desktop and they’re lost…

I personally like CompactCMS — I’m not sure I have any real use for it, but it would be fine to use to setup simple web sites for clients that actually wanted to be able to make modest changes to the site themselves (remember, most low end web site offerings don’t include unlimited changes — and generally don’t include any changes).


Originally posted 2010-04-07 02:00:28.