Entries Tagged as ''

Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Unit

Nikon

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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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.

Done

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.

MeeGo

Nokia has announced a launch of the MeeGo (N8) smart phone by the end of Q3 2010… and they stated that it will not be using Android, nor will they be shipping a tablet any time soon.

Nokia, once a dominant force in the cellular handset market, has seen it’s profits eaten away by Apple, HTC, and Motorola…

Here’s a bullet list summary…

  • On the N8: The N8 is more of a high to mid-range smartphone. It will be launched before the end of Q3. It will be available in the US, and carrier partnerships will be announced at a later date.
  • On MeeGo: The first MeeGo phone will be announced before the end of the year and will be a “milestone product” for the company. Nokia’s done a lot of work on the interface and done away with a lot of the “legacy” of Symbian.
  • On Android: Nokia has no plans to use Android on its smartphones. End of story.
  • On tablets / larger phones: The company’s made “no decisions” on entering the market. Savander seems to think larger screened smartphones are awkward.
  • On netbooks: The Booklet 3G was priced a bit high, but they are still in the market.
  • On 4G: Nokia has no plans to produce WiMax devices, but LTE will be a big focus.

One thing is certain, if Nokia doesn’t re-capture a larger part of the smart phone market soon, they may see the window of opportunity closing; and one has to ask the question why not capitalize off the Android hype?

Originally posted 2010-08-14 02:00:05.

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.

Credit Card Game

So you’re looking to add another credit card to your wallet… here’s a few options and things to consider ad you play the credit card game and get the financial institutions to pay you.

Discover — promo offer, spend $500 and get $50 cash back; but you’ll only get 0.25% cash back in the first tier (but they do have on going special categories, and the cash back percentage goes up as you spend more; but certainly their are better options).

Walmart Discover — promo offer will give you $20 cash back if you spend $100 on it the day you apply at a Walmart store (you get a check with your first statement).  Keep in mind that the Walmart Discover isn’t actually issued by Discover Financial Service, but rather by GE Money Bank (so it has to be managed through the Walmart portal, not Discover; and it doesn’t have many of the features of a regular Discover card).

NOTE: Discover branded card allow you to get cash back at a Walmart or Sam’s Club (which is charged as a purchase, not cash advance).

Citi Diamond Preferred MC (or AMEX) — promo “5% bonus” on gas, drugstores, and supermarkets for the first year; if you spend $300 in the first three months you get a $50 gift card; 1% normally — virtual credit card numbers

Citi Dividend MC — “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum ($300 max rebate per year) — virtual credit card numbers.

Chase Freedom VISA — promo 5% on gas and travel right now, the “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum.

CapitalOne Platinum VISA — 2% on gas and groceries, 1% minimum — low rent bank; but pay your bills and you will be fine.

Costco AMEX — 3% gas and dining; 2% travel, 1% minimum (requires paid Costco membership; $3000 purchase limit on 3% gas, 1% afterwards).

Most all the cash back cards now don’t offer good cash back rates for long (you have to play the promo game)… one way to avoid that is get a “branded” card at a place you do lots of business (like if you bought Shell gas most of the time get the Shell VISA — but it only works if there’s a card from place you do a lot of business and it pays say 5% there and 1% elsewhere; Chase has lots of those types of cards).

My feeling is the right number of credit cards is THREE

  • VISA
  • Master Card
  • Discover

You can argue four if you like AMEX — and that would probably be either the Costco or Citi AMEX for the best deal.

I would say acquire a credit card no more often than every three months until you’re at the level you want… if you find a card you like better than one you have — acquire it and just don’t use the other card (you can close it as well, but that really doesn’t buy you anything). DO NOT apply for more than a single credit card per month; and be careful about opening a bank account AND applying for a credit card in the same thirty day window (do the credit card first).

NOTE: Use credit cards responsibly.  If you can’t afford to pay the balance off every month — don’t make the purchase.  While many people keep revolving balances on credit cards, the interest rate (even a good interest rate for a credit card) makes the cost of what you’re purchasing ridiculous.  If you feel you won’t use a credit card responsibly — look for a financial institution that offers rewards on their debit card.

If I were applying for a new card right now it would probably be the Citi Diamond Preferred; and I’m considering applying for a Citi Diamond once the Chase 5% gas deal is over.

NOTE: I have a Discover, Walmart Discover, Citi Dividend, and Chase Freedom (along with others that I have not included on the this list).  I do not have (nor do I want) any AMEX card; nor do I personally want to do business with CapitolOne.

Originally posted 2010-07-23 02:00:19.

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.

Public Storage

Public Storage has a $1 first month special (you do still have to pay the administrative fee) that sounds on the surface to be a great deal.

However, what they don’t tell you is that you’re probably not going to be able to get the size you reserve, and they’re going to try and soak you for additional charges to provide you with two or three units that fulfill your storage requirements.

I’m going to recommend you try other storage facilities first; simply because many of the others also have deals (most give you the second or third month free); but all the others seem to be much more honest from the first contact about what size units they have or will likely have.

NOTE:  The Public Storage I’d made a reservation at did call me back while I was on the road to tell me they had a unit come available; of course I was on the road and they only gave me a couple hours to respond.

Originally posted 2009-04-23 01:00:59.