St. Patrick’s Island NEW Park!

One of the things in life that takes me to my happy place is being able to explore a new park. It goes back to when I was eight years old and first allowed to go exploring on my own in Berlin, Germany while my mom was visiting with yet more relatives that I had never met before. The wonder of coming around a corner and seeing what came next in the greenery never has left me, so I was looking forward to exploring Calgary’s newly renovated St Patrick’s Island park. “Renovation” is a bit of understatement, more like rip things apart real good and put them back together in a new way is more like it. Even with the extreme makeover, the island is big enough that they managed to leave a good part of the old trees, and some of the landscape as is.
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10 things I didn’t know about cell phone until I started supporting them for a living

My current job involves supporting “mobility devices” in the company I work for, which 99% of the time means cell phones. Now, I have been a bit behind the times in having the latest and greatest phone, but since I got my Nexus 4, I’ve come a long way, to the point of suffering from “discharge anxiety” if I’m too long away from a charging plug. So, here are 10 things I have learned about cell phones:
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It’s alive

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Nexus 10 review

I decided to drink the Google kool-aid and buy the Nexus 10

Not my best work or illustrative of what the Nexus 10 can doHaving used it for almost a month now, I’m somewhat surprised at how much I’ve used this tablet around the house. I’m a first time pad user, but I’ve got a lot of work experience with smaller portable devices for data entry. What follows are the thoughts of an old-school computer user learning the new-school portable device paradigm.

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Canon Image Square

Went to the Canon Image Square store last week. I wasn’t really that impressed, but YMMV. I decided to try them out on three things retail sucks at:
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Your next great photo is just around the corner

I decided yesterday to walk over to the mailbox to drop off a letter. The temperature had climbed to a balmy -16C and I was tired of being in the house all day. I took the DSLR with my 10-22 zoom (equals 16-35mm film) along as it was late in the afternoon with a bright sun going down in the south west. Good light can much improve the possibility for a good picture. Besides, I need more practice with the wide angle.
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Viewsonic 15″ digital frame

Since I took the time to post on amazon.ca, I might as well re-quote it here:

Viewsonic’s 15″ digital frame is a cut above the no-name brand frames in terms of both picture quality and frame quality. The frame has a nicer fake cherry wood veneer, with a cream colored matte, much less harsh than the standard black with white matte of most other frames. Be careful to not scratch the frame – the veneer will come off, especially on the corners revealing the light particle board underneath. Fit and finish are good – expect the quality level of a nicer frame from a department store.

The picture quality is very good, IF you can view the picture from the right angle. The LCD has no problems on horizontal viewing, but vertical is another matter. The image will go dark & change colors when viewed from below – making the frame a poor choice to hang on a wall. You will be able to see your photos just fine standing at eye level with the frame, when you sit down to admire your work, you will see darkened off-color images. The frame is clearly designed to sit on a desk, where you tend to view from above. The problem is, this is a pretty large frame to put on a desk, similar to size of a monitor. It is a shame really, because if you can set this frame up on a low shelf or TV stand, it displays colors as good as a monitor, and does a nice job of downsizing to the frame’s 1024×768 native resolution. I estimate the optimal view angle vertically to be from zero to 30 degrees up – only slight darkening above that. Any angle of view below darkens immediately to unacceptable levels. The frame is unusable in portrait mode – unless you can keep the viewer on the “good side” of the frame.

I’d still buy this frame again due to overall better quality. I would not hang this frame on a wall. Note that many other frames suffer from view angle issues – you may want to look at some on display in a store before you buy.

I’ll add to this that nothing has changed since my 3:2 rant from 2010, other than quality has improved. I see at Adorama that they have a 17″ size from Digital Spectrum now. It is 1280 x 1024 which is a 5:4 ratio, even more square than the 4:3 of consumer digital cameras. This means the 8 X 10’s that you expect from a portrait view are native in this frame, and look properly proportioned. 4×3’s still look a little too tall, but most people will find it acceptable. I’d have to buy one to see if the viewing angle is workable or not, perhaps a late Xmas present for myself is in order, we will see.

If you want bigger, you pretty much are buying a large TV to display your images on, which is not classy, and not even close to the right ratio to display images. I still think there is a market for some really big frame you wall mount – especially since such sizes are well under $1000 now for something that would fill a modest sized living room.

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Security Camera D-Link DCS-942L

Synopsis:
The D-Link DCS942L camera is a feature rich security camera, but a bitch to configure manually. Even the setup wizard, once I finally got it working, didn’t work without some issues. It turns out most of the wizard issue is due to DLink no longer providing you a CD. If you copy the wizard you download to a stick and run it from there it works, even if registration on the mydlink site appears not to work – just login with the account info you gave it. I suspect it’s a problem with the ca.mydlink.com so if you’re USA, this might work just fine. You can skip the wizard completely and just log on to the device directly browsing it through your network places. The initial login is admin with a blank password. The only think you’ll not be able to do is use Dlink’s site to see your camera remotely- for that you have to get the wizard to work – no manual registration is provided.

What follows is a long story detailing all the issues I had in pretty much two days of trying to get everything working.
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Teaching Myself Composition

I’m trying to teach myself better photo composition today. So, this essay is as much me talking to myself as it is me trying to teach you something. Composition is very important – you can’t fix very much of it in post processing beyond cropping. In photography, it involves mostly where you position the camera in taking a picture. Most people, including me, have a tendency to just point the camera at the object of interest and shoot. They get boring pictures because many times there is so much other crap in the frame that the viewer really has no idea of what the photographer was trying to capture. Come to think of it, photographers often have no idea what they are trying to capture either.

Here are a couple of photos of a really simple subject: an old speed limit sign. It doesn’t get much easier than this. I just needed some reasonable light, and the ability to get my subject in the frame, which I got. I have post processed these pretty much the same – tighten up the contrast levels a bit, bump the saturation levels a bit. These are 1/2 original size. Extra mgapixels don’t make these pictures any better. No cropping, as I tried to frame my subject tightly right in camera. I didn’t have all day to think about it either, as I was walking with a guest.
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Tax time eased with StudioTax

Just finished doing my taxes using StudioTax. It’s completely free, no bullshit, no income limits. They just ask for a donation, of which they bug you about only once, when you go and submit your netfile file. Studio Tax isn’t some light weight program either; it handles most situations and small business just fine. I give them $20 every year after filing because I think it’s so good of them to just give their software away. It’s worth more than $20 in saving me hours of going through a paper copy since I refuse to pay a service to pay my taxes. Yes, I can find cheaper pay services, but I’m donating to StudioTax in order to help keep them going so that those people facing tight finances regardless of income can get a free ride. Just pay it back when you do have money.
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