Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in May, 2003

My Pentax Optio S camera just arrived, after a hair-raising three weeks of worrying about the shipment coming in time for the upcoming Europe trip. Whew. Nothing like getting a new geek toy a few days before one’s birthday. Many thanks to the nice folks at B&H Photo Video for making my deadline. Here are my first impressions.

Besides the camera itself, which has 11MB built-in memory, I bought two SanDisk 256MB memory cards and a PQI FPTS-D-US TravelFlash card reader/writer with USB interface. The reader comes with an installation CD for various Windows flavors and for Classic Mac OS; no installation was necessary for Mac OS X. It’s small and light but the bulges on the side interfere (by a millimeter or so) with the neighboring USB connector on my iBook; there’s enough “give” to make it fit, though, and a 60-cm USB extension cable is included.

The SD (Secure Digital) cards are postage-stamp sized and have a write-protect switch, which seems very convenient. They come in a bulkier plastic case, probably because they’d be easy to lose otherwise. The 256MB size is the most cost-effective right now. Both came preformatted and Mac OS X could see them with no trouble. Interestingly, the packaging included both a magnetic-wire tag and a RFID tag… the latter seem to be getting very popular lately.

Going back to the camera itself, it comes in a surprisingly small box which is very tightly packed. The bulkiest items are the battery charger and the various cables – an USB cable, the charger’s power cable, and the video out cable for connecting to a TV, and a smaller bag with the camera strap. The manual is conveniently small-sized too. The battery and camera themselves are so small and discreetly packed in a size pocket of the box that I had a momentary panic attack icon_smile.gif.

The manual recommends charging the battery first, so that’s what I’m did while typing this. it’s supposed to take 100 minutes or less. The battery slides into the charger but isn’t held too tightly, so I’ll be careful not to handle the charger while it’s operating. As the charger’s power cable is long and bulky, I’ll probably travel with my iBook’s adapter plug instead. Meanwhile, I attached the camera strap first of all, as handling the camera without it was quite anxiety-provoking; it was so light I was afraid to fumble and drop it. The camera-side end of the strap itself looks very thin too. That said, the gripping surfaces, though small, are well placed and roughened by circular concentric grooves. The grooves are centered on the lens in front and on the four-way button in back, and contribute to the camera’s jewel-like appearance.

The accompanying CD has drivers for Windows and Classic Mac OS, as well as Windows and Mac versions of ACDSee, an image browser. Curiously, the version on the CD was 1.6.9, quite more recent than the one listed on VersionTracker. There’s no mention of a newer version on the ACDSee site.

On the first power-up, the camera asks for some setup information, like menu language, geographical location, and date and time. After some fumbling and belated checking of the manual, I think I’ve got the hang of the menu system. The four-way button on the back at first seems a little flaky, like the reviews warned me, but working it with a fingernail works OK. The camera has an enormous range of options, I’ve barely scratched the surface after about an hour of fiddling.

The top of the camera has the power button on the right and the shutter release next to it. Worries that they’d be too easy to confuse were unfounded, as the power button is slightly recessed and the shutter release falls naturally under the right index finger. The zoom in/out buttons are a little less convenient as they fall under the thumbtip. Zooming seems to work in discrete steps, which I’d never seen before in a camera.

So far, I’ve checked out the various flash, focusing and zooming options and some of the media formats. The sound recording feature records over 16 hours (!) of sound on a 256MB card at 8 KHz mono – this generates a .wav file. Not really useful for concert bootlegging, but it’s quite sufficient for interviews and meetings. You can also record a sound clip of up to 30 secs for each photo – useful for the “shoot first and ask later” approach.

The video recording feature records up to 30 seconds of “Motion JPEG OpenDML” video, at 320×240 pixels, around 12 fps, with 8KHz mono sound. The finished file is in .avi format and averages around 2.7MB size in my tests. Clips look reasonable on a TV, considering the low pixel size. It seems that the video output (which can be switched between PAL and NTSC) just mirrors whatever appears on the LCD; this may be interesting for teaching purposes.

I’ve figured out that, as long as I imitate Pentax’s numbering conventions, I can upload existing photos to a card and have the camera display it; of about 70 test images, 8 seemed to be in an uncompatible format, quite puzzling as they were all tweaked and saved in Photoshop. Later on I’ll try to save the same image with several options to narrow this down. This will be very useful on the trip, it beats carrying dozens of photo albums…

No time for now to fiddle around with actual test images, but here’s a slightly cropped and reduced self-portrait:

I’ll be taking the camera to a party later today as a first field-test. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some actual test images and more comments in a few days…

I forgot to say that the conference sprang from the warped brain of John Walkenbach. Thanks John!

I’ve just looked at other items on his J-Walk Blog, and there’s lots of interesting stuff. For instance, if I still were in the age range for building a new house, I’d read the Earthship site very carefully. Rather than linking to practically every post, I urge you to run, not walk, to J-Walk. Highly recommended!

Mario Jorge Passos directed me (by e-mail) to Fastfame‘s website, apparently a Taiwanese manufacturer of PC motherboards, LCD monitors, and other goodies:

Fastfame is a professional manufacture of PC hardware process and assembly computer motherboard and interface card for electronic and communication as well as others.

At the bottom of the page there’s the company’s slogan:

Futer we make it brighter.

From the official site of The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference:

I am Mr. Laurent Mpeti Kabila, a senior assistant leader of the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone.

I present to you an urgent and confidential request: I request your attendance at The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference. This is an excellent opportunity to meet your distinguished colleagues, learn new marketing techniques, and spend your hard-earned money. Attending this conference demands the highest trust, security and confidentiality between us.

…Keynote Address:

Dr. Hamza Kalu’s adds some historical perspective in his keynote address is titled, “From Postal Scams To Email Scams: We Have Come a Long Way Infant Child”.


Grammatical errors: What’s the optimal number?


Now why didn’t I think of that…? icon_lol.gif

Regarding our previous discussion here (and a few posts before that), Erik J. Barzesky writes that he prefers .dmg files for archival purposes:

The time for DropStuff/Deluxe has passed. I find myself using .tgz on the command line for files I know to be safe (i.e. those without resource forks). StuffIt Expander will continue to be useful for at least a little while, but for now, .dmg is the way I intend to go.

I still use DropStuff (part of Stuffit Lite) for temporarily archiving installed applications or data files, but I agree with Erik that .dmg is the best way for archiving things.

Regarding software distribution, my experience is that most users also want to archive the original .dmg, so that’s what I use for my own products.

Preparations for our trip are in progress. Dorinha has gotten the (relatively expensive) Czech visa, which is the only one she’ll need; as a German citizen, I don’t need any. Passports are in order, and plane tickets also. It turned out that our agent (Fátima at Portal Viagens) managed to squeeze the flights between Belo Horizonte and São Paulo into the KLM ticket at practically no extra cost! Kudos to Fátima and KLM.

After some initial difficulties in contacting other members of the far-flung Brockerhoff clan, it seems that a general family meeting is scheduled in Düsseldorf for Saturday, June 28th. I’ll post the exact time and address soon…

Because of the meeting, it looks like we’ll drive counter-clockwise instead of clockwise, so the probable sequence is now: Frankfurt, Ingelheim, probably Konstanz, Vienna, Budapest, Brno, Prague, Dresden, Berlin and Düsseldorf, then back to Frankfurt.

I’m not taking my iBook, so I’ll depend on Internet cafés to keep up-to-date. My new digital camera is supposed to arrive this week, so hopefully I’ll be able to post photos as soon as I come back.


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I’m testing GlobeAlive. Very interesting concept, although still rough around the edges – think “iChat with reputation management”. The Mac OS X GlobeAlive Desktop is still alpha-quality; after my Europe trip I may look into writing a better one in my copious spare time.

Yesterday I had occasion to chat with Mark Carey, another GlobeAlive user. He also blogged about our chat in Web Dawn; thanks, Mark! Be sure to also check out his Seinfeld page.

Geek Test

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Doc Searls pointed at the Geek Test and of course I had to go and check it out.

Hmm… it seems I just scored “33.92505% – Total Geek” (the top scorer got “69.82249% – Geek God”). Of course, I had to go back and check where this surprisingly low score came from icon_wink.gif, and found out:

    There’s no item for “takes frequent geek tests”
    I checked only one of the “I play X, Y or Z game” options
    I checked only one of the “I collect X, Y or Z” options
    I checked none of the “I want to be X, Y or Z” options
    I checked only two of the “I watch TV/movie” options.
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