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Earth Day 2010

Forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever. While climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, it also presents the greatest opportunity – an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy now and for the future.

Earth Day 2010 can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs. Earth Day Network is galvanizing millions who make personal commitments to sustainability. Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy. Join the more than one billion people in 190 countries that are taking action for Earth Day.

EarthDay.org

Originally posted 2010-04-22 02:00:38.

Customizing Windows XP and Vista Installations

Two tools you should know about are nLite (for XP/2003) and vLite (for Vista/2008), they allow you to customize the installation of Windows as well as “slip stream” in service packs, hot fixes, drivers, etc.

On interesting note, you can often build a slip streamed installation media and install from it faster than you can install, apply drivers and service packs!

It’s easy to use and can save a great deal of time and it’s free.

Originally posted 2008-12-03 12:00:06.

D-Link DGS-2208 Eight Port Gigabit Switch

I ordered a couple of these from Amazon last month to make  my temporary network wiring a little easier until I can do some permanent wiring throughout the house.

They were very inexpensive, and had a rebate (limit two).

The newer version of these switches (hardware revision C) are Energy Star certified — they consume very little power, and produce almost no heat at all.

The bottom line is they work, and work well — are affordable to purchase, and reasonably eco-friendly.

Originally posted 2009-08-02 01:00:11.

Windows – Desktop Search

Most people realize how valuable Internet search engines are; but not everyone has figured out how valuable desktop (and server) search engines can be.

Even in corporate environments where data storage is highly organized it’s easy to forget where something is, or not know that someone else has already worked on a particular document — but if you could quickly and efficiently search all the public data on all the machines in your organization (or home) you could find those pieces of information you either misplaced or never knew about.

With Windows Search it just happens.  If you have access to a document, and you search — you can find it.  Open up a file explorer Window and point it at location you think it might be, type in the search box — and matching documents quickly appear (and those that don’t match disappear).  Do the same thing against a remote share – and it happens magically (the remote box does all the work).  It’s even possible to  be able to search multiple servers simultaneously – and it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to setup.

Windows Search is already on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 as well as Windows Vista (you’ll want to apply updates) — and easily installable on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.  In fact, the defaults will probably do fine — just install and go (of course it will take a little while to index all your information).

A developer can fairly easily enhance search to include more document types using (plenty of examples, and it uses a model that Microsoft has employed in many parts of Windows)…   The search interface can be used via API, embedded in a web page, or just used directly from the search applet (which appears in auto-magically in Windows 7 and Windows Vista).

Very few Microsoft products are worth praise — but Windows Search is; and from my personal experience no competitor on any platform compares.

To those looking to write a “new” desktop search; look at Windows Search and understand what it does and how it works before you start your design.

Windows Search

Originally posted 2010-07-17 02:00:24.

Zeiss Lenses

Not lenses for your camera… lenses for your glasses!

Carl Zeiss Optical has been making high quality lenses for optical needs in glasses and sunglasses (I’ve always preferred to pay a little extra for Zeiss polarized lenses for my sun glasses) at While Mill Industiral Estate just outside Wexford, Ireland for over 30 years — on 30 September 2011 they announce the facility is closing and that production is being moved to China by years end.

While the quality of the production of Zeiss optics might be every bit as good after the move; I’m thinking I might just not want to waste the money buying a “name” that’s been put on a product that’s likely made in the same factory that something costing half as much does.

You’ll have to decide if you want to support Zeiss; but more and more it seems that brands I trusted for quality are just becoming labels that charge higher prices and offer nothing.

Originally posted 2011-10-03 02:00:25.

Panasonic HDC-SD10 High Definition Camcorder

I purchased a Panasonic HDC-SD10K High Definition Camcorder from B&H Photo Video a little over a week ago for $299.00 delivered.  The K suffix means black; which is I believe the only color available in the US.

I had originally found this model camcorder on Amazon for the same price as a customer return, but I was a little hesitant to purchase it, and by the time I decided it was worth the asking price it was no longer available; but as luck would have it a few days later B&H was offering brand new units for the same price.  The B&H price is good through 16 January 2010 while supplies last.

First, let’s keep in mind that $299 is less than half as much as the nearest comparable camcorder; so if it doesn’t seem like this is a Rolls Royce, perhaps that’s because you’re paying Yugo prices.

The HDC-SD10 was announced last year at CES, but didn’t ship in the US until this past Summer, and it was never really a very popular model since Panasonic offered an almost identical model with 8GB of internal memory (the HDC-SD10 has no internal memory) for $50 more.  Other than the internal memory, these models are identical.

A quick overview of the HDC-SD10 (for those who don’t want to just look up the specifications for themselves).

1920x1080i MPEG4-AVC/H.264 video, 2.1MP JPEG stills, 1/6″ CMOS, 16x optical zoom, 2.7″ touchscreen LCD, image stabilization, auto focus, built in light and flash.

When the unit arrived, I opened the box and allowed the battery to charge for a couple hours before trying it out.

While the batter was charging I looked over the unit.  It seemed reasonably well constructed, and it looked like a good deal of though had been put into positioning the controls.  The only thing I don’t care for is how the cover on the SD slot opens — I’m very partial to how Nikon did the SD cover on my D40, and this just seems far less well done.

I popped a 2GB SD card into the camcorder (I expected it to complain about the slow speed rating, Panasonic recommend Class 6 SDHC cards); but to my surprise it worked.  I would recommend that you use at least Class 4, and that you use at least a 4GB SDHC card.  But if you have other cards around, try them.

Unfortunately, by the time the battery had charged, the sky was cloudy and I was robbed of my opportunity to get some bright daylight shots — but I figured taking shots in overcast would give me an idea of how the camcorder worked.

I took two videos outside at the second highest quality setting (that’s the default); and I snapped about a dozen still images.  Then I went inside and did pretty much the same test.

The two video tests were:

  • walk back and forth with the camera
  • stand stationary and rotate around

Both tests involved using the zoom in and out (both moving and stationary).

I should note here that I did all of my initial testing without reading the documentation — this should be considered a testament to how easy this camcorder is to use for anyone who’s used a camcorder (or digital camera) before.  The controls were easy to find and use and there was simply no confusion about how to accomplish my task (which is good; my old JVC camcorder always seemed awkward to use, even after having it for several years).

With my test data collected I sat down and the computer.

I didn’t bother installing any software on my computer, I just popped out the SDHC and slipped it into the computer.

The digital stills were easy to find; same directory structure as most digital cameras.  The images are JPEG files, and contains EXIF data.

The video sequences took a little more looking to find, and they are standard AVCHD (MTS) files.  Both Windows Media Player and Live Movie Maker are able to deal with these files.

Let me pause here and remind you that what follows is my first impressions of the HDC-SD10; not a complete review.  My personal feeling is you need to use a camera or camcorder for several shoots before you’ve got a good feel for what it does and how well it does it.

The outside stills were good.  Certainly they don’t compare with either of my DSLRs or my high-end point-and-shoot… but then again, this is a camcorder, not a camera.  The only weakness I found with the digital still was that focus cycle requires a few seconds and the shutter release is not locked out during the focus cycle.  Which means you can snap a picture that is out of focus fairly easily if you’re not patient.  You can snap a still image when the camcorder is recording or when it isn’t.

The outside video was amazingly clear.  The color was very good, and the motion was acceptable.  Quickly panning produced some motion artifacts, but normal movement was far clearer than on my JVC miniDV camcorder.  I will have to say that my feeling is that the zoom is too fast; but I guess it’s better to be too fast than too slow; and for most people I would expect they want a fast zoom.

The inside still images were fine.  The flash works very well.  The colors were about what you expect from a mid-range point-and-shoot.  Nothing to write home about, but acceptable if you need to snap a still and you have the camcorder in your hands.

The inside video was actually quite impressive.  The reviews I had read of the camcorder indicated that low light performance wasn’t very good.  From what I saw low light performance was quite good.  In rooms with no lights on the camcorder was able to register a moderate amount of detail just using its built in light.  In reasonably well lite rooms the level of detail was quite good.  However, the color under LED lights or CF lights was definitely off (I don’t have any incandescent lights in my house, I suspect the color balance would have been better).  Comparing the performance of this camcorder to my JVC miniDV it is definitely better.  Better detail in low light, and equal or better color.  Obviously if I wanted to shoot any video that I was going to show someone I’d turn on some incandescent lights (bounced off the ceiling).

The sound quality on the recordings were fine.  There was quite a bit of wind outside, but the camcorder didn’t seem to be able to deal with it.  Obviously the stereo separation on any camcorder without external microphones is poor — and not a metric I’d concern myself with.

At this price point, the HDC-SD10 seems like a keeper.  You’d pay as much for a standard definition digital camcorder, and half this much for a standard definition miniDV camcorder; or twice as much for a camcorder with substantially better specifications.

I’m hoping the weather here warms up some so I can get out on a sunny day and really shoot some footage to fully evaluate how the camcorder works; and I’d like to do some shoots on the river and at the beach as well.  My expectation is that this camcorder will be fine for me, and I’ll be looking to purchase a few accessories in the near future.

If you want a really high end camcorder; this isn’t for you.  If you want a good quality high definition digital camcorder for hobby use and your not foolish about throwing your money away, perhaps it is worth consideration.


Optics

Sensor
1.47 Megapixel 1/6″ CMOS
Lens
2.95-47.2mm f/1.8-2.8
Zoom
Optical: 16x
Digital: 1000x
Filter Size
30.5mm
Recording
System
NTSC
Recording Media
SD/SDHC
Recording Time
Not Specified By Manufacturer
Video Format
High Definition
MPEG AVC/H.264
1920 x 1080, 1440 x 1080
Still Image Resolution
JPEG: 2.1 Megapixel
Audio Format
2-Channel Stereo
Display
Display Type
LCD
Screen Size
2.7″
Touchscreen
Yes
Features
Image Stabilization
Optical
Lux
1400Standard illumination
91/30 low light mode
1Magic Pix
Built-in Mic
Yes
Built-in Speaker
Yes
Built-in Light/Flash
Light – Yes
Flash – Yes
Accessory Shoe
None
Tripod Mount
1/4″
Input/Output Connectors
Inputs
None
Outputs
1x A/V
1x USB 2.0
1x Mini HDMI
1x Component Video (out)
Microphone Input
No
Headphone Jack
No
General
System Requirements
Windows System

  • XP, Vista, Windows 7
Battery
Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
Power Adapter
Battery Charger / Battery Eliminator
Dimensions (WxHxD)
1.87 x 2.48 x 4.51″ / 47.50 x 62.99 x 114.55mm
Weight
0.5 lbs / 226.80g

HDC-SD10

HDC-SD10K Product Information

HDC-SD-10K Support Information

Originally posted 2010-01-09 01:00:28.

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

There are a number of comparisons between the Canadian and US health care systems; and like with any complex issue you can make the comparison show almost anything you want depending on the metrics chosen for the comparison and the facts included (or omitted).

Often the Canadian and American systems are compared since until the 1960s they were extremely similar, and Canadian and Americans share a large common history and to some extent culture.

This comparison on Wikipedia appears to be an honest attempt to compare and contrast the two systems, it includes a number of citations.  I recommend reading it, and considering what it has to say in light of the the current state health care in the US.

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

Originally posted 2010-03-16 13:03:11.

Free

I found this web page on GNU.org by the Free Software Foundation to be hilarious… it just reeks of doublespeak and I’m sure George Orwell would agree.

Now see, I thought the “free” in “free software” meant “free” — and it didn’t really need any qualifications.  Software that was free from encumbrances and cost… but now the Free Software Foundation is telling us that “free” might cost…

Maybe they’re looking for ways to pay their salaries?

I don’t know.

Maybe that other kind of software that wasn’t “free” might turn out to be less expensive in the long run.

Selling Free Software

Originally posted 2009-12-28 01:00:36.

Give in the present for the future…

Help Wikipedia grow — read the appeal from Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, for US tax deductible donations to help grow Wikipedia and keep it free for ourselves and future generations.

If you want to give this holiday season, give something small that will really help big… or give something big that will help hugely!

Jimmy Wales

Donate to Wikipedia

Originally posted 2009-12-24 01:00:14.

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.