Saturday, March 8, 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014
|Jamie and Isobel on the course, getting ready to run.|
I still own most of the parts of this Lego Technic 8860 kit from 1980 - thanks to Mum and Dad for keeping hold of this for me!
So a week ahead of schedule we got down to work. We drew up a cheat sheet of what we felt were the main issues: terrain and hill gradient, wheel choice, centre of gravity and vehicle weight.
|Secret plans, secret plans... plot, hatch, scheme.|
|Say hello to 'Old Skool - 1980'. All your race R belong to US.|
The main race stipulations being that your entry had to fit within a 40cm cubic dimension. All parts must be actual lego. No adhesives or extra weight to be used or fitted internally. Your vehicle MUST be able to transport at least one Lego mini-figure. Didn't say nuthin' about having THREE mini-figures.
|Helms-man, Navigator and Psy-Ops.|
|Sweet, forgiving asphalt. Not the usual stone-chip NZ road surface.|
|For Glory! ... and a smash up at the end|
|First look at some of the competition.|
|Heat two for the open class, Jamie gets a last minute tip on direction from a race official.|
|City Arts Manager Martin Rodgers from the Wellington City Council doing a great job on the mic.|
|Unorthodox Death Machine on the loose!|
We won video rental, dessert pizza from Hell.co.nz and a nice ceramic mug. Congratulations to all the well-deserved wins in the other divisions, [you can see more of the winners in the gallery] and well done Island Bay for hosting Wellington's very first Lego Downhill Derby.
Next year I think I'll take a more back-seat stance and have our kids build and enter their own vehicles now we know the lay of the land. We've got a heads up on next years design already.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
|From this sorry thing...|
A while back in an effort to force myself to learn to touch type at work, I blacked out the keys of my keyboard with duct tape. This worked. However, after two hot summers, the duct tape began to slide off and my co-workers said my keyboard was looking a little ghetto. It's true, my fingers were getting sticky and my typing full of errrrrrorsa nd musssstaaaaakes. Time for a replacement:
Enter the Filco Majestouch Tenkeyless Ninja!
|To the future and beyond.|
Thanks to the fine sales people at The Keyboard Company I am now the proud owner of this masterfully fine thing. And yes, those are metal [zinc to be precise] WASD keys. I've also replaced the 'f' and 'j' with radially etched Line2R green keys from wasdkeyboards.com and replaced the escape key with a red one. I'm sporting Cherry MX Brown switches with silencing rings under the main letter keys and the return key.
It is well nice to type on. I see many customisations in my keyboard-fetish-future.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
|But you have cable TV, right?|
Seriously, when can I give money to the people who make the content and have them make it available when it's ready? It's 2014!! I'm moaning again. Sorry. The Oatmeal sums it up fantastically if you haven't already seen it.
So we began renting movies that are available through iTunes instead of physical media [DVDs, Bluray discs] through our local movie rental shop. At first, the iTunes delivery is stable and great. We have a 40mb cable modem connection which is more than enough to stream a 720p movie [even with a 15min wait at the start]. But about a year ago, quality of service from iTunes began to drop, with movies we rented pausing 2/3rds through and demanding we wait 20 mins for buffering. Why? Don't we have a fast enough internet connection for this?
Enter the Net-Neutrality debate.
From Wikipedia: Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.
As the internet is increasingly invaded commercially, we've all long suspected ISPs of being vulnerable to 'shaping' traffic volumes where they perhaps shouldn't. Recently this is a hotly debated topic in the US and the forces for and against net-neutrality are slugging it out, with consumers wearing any fallout.
I don't know how this is going to play out, but I'm on the side of legislation that protects the internet from too much commercial influence and perpetuates the abilities of anyone to use it fairly as a communication medium, from freedom-fighters to Facebook, Twitter to TradeMe and back. You wouldn't want to have to pay your ISP for top-tier access to your favourite sites on top of monthly access and bandwidth caps would you? Me neither. We've all had enough of 'over-the-top' services from cell providers huh. Dumb-pipes await.
So what's this got to do with AppleTV then?
Well back when I bought AppleTV [2nd gen], I was high on the hope Steve Jobs was about to unveil an app store for it and we'd be able to do some of the things we do on the phone/iPad on the TV. That never came to pass, but Steve did, and all we were left with was the notion he'd 'cracked' it and we'd soon be blessed by something much better. And it's been just that, a notion.
Slowly Apple have been adding channels to AppleTV over the last two years. My impression was that this was the thin end of the wedge and that Apple were collecting content makers together one by one to quietly begin to be able much more varied and higher quality offerings than our traditional providers. Yet nothing has really materialised in terms of hardware despite rumours about large screens, 4k displays, bezel-free designs, magical remote control rings etc. Other rumours suggest Apple are hard at work tying up agreements and making deals behind closed doors, getting ready to do to TV what iTunes did to music sales.
Then this report surfaces on MacRumours detailing Apple's progress on building their own content delivery network:
Given the timeline for the data-centre completions and the focus on a watch-style product right now and new iPhone6 rumours, I don't see TV announcements on the horizon for another year at least. Maybe I'm wrong, but, I don't think so. Looking forward to ditching the cable box though.
Update: It's 2015 and nothing has changed regarding Apple's approach to TV. It's effectively still a hobby for them. The iPhone6 is here, the watch is about to hit and no TV in sight.
|Wouldn't it be great if these services were available in NZ without using a VPN?|
Saturday, December 14, 2013
I've been craving the Fuji-x100 since it came out. The combination of the rangefinder aesthetic and sharp, fixed 35mm equivalent lens have me thinking constantly of how many situations I'd be able to use one in where toting the 5DmkII might be overkill, and the iPhone5 would be underkill.
Luckily enough I've waited long enough that the successor to Fuji's upstart digital rangefinder, the x100s is now available and is going to be my Christmas present this year!
My usage theory goes like this:
|David Hobby's x100s in it's Lo-Fi travel duct-tape camouflage.|
My usage theory goes like this:
1. Canon 5DmkII for assignments and clients and weddings etc.
2. Fuji x100s for holidays, short trips and places where too much gear is a burden.
3. iPhone5 for everything else.
David Hobby [Strobist] has been using the x100s for a while now and has an excellent series of posts covering it's flexibility and attraction to photographers everywhere:
And his YouTube run-through of the features is worth a look if you need a sense of what the camera can do and where it fits into his world: Click on the image below to visit YouTube and watch:
And if you wanted more, a search on Flickr shows plenty of examples by others.
I think my biggest stumbling block is going to be the x100s' excellent in-camera processing and jpeg output. This may mean not shooting RAW files as the increase in shooting speed and flexibility afforded is pretty impressive. I... *think* I'm going to have trouble committing to this over the xmas break and won't have my computer to compare images on, so maybe RAW+jpeg it will have to be.
I make use of the iPhone5's panoramic shooting mode regularly:
and so I'm pretty stoked to read that the x100s has a mode for shooting this way too. It should mean higher res and sharper images in this format.
The way the lens flares out is great. The built-in ND filter is good. The ergonomics are very nice. The shooting modes and film emulation is fantastic. The leaf-shutter and wide aperture should mean much more interesting looks outdoors in full sunlight. In short, I cannot wait for Christmas Day this year!!
I hope your Christmas is filled with family, fun, sun and good cheer!
Monday, September 30, 2013
I'm not so naive that I think that this will 'erase' me from that part of the internet. Far from it. Information I left inside Facebook is only private for now and I know it's never really deleted just stored for later on. In the meantime they're already employing new algorithms to figure out which of your posts are worth reading or not.
I'm not bitter, and it was a free service and I definitely got some fun time out of it. I'm under no illusions about the nature of the arrangement, but I think the scales are finally tipping too far in their favour.
So [aside from this stupendous list of criticisms!] these are my reasons for departing [in no particular order]:
- 1. Ever increasing monetization. [Wasn't it more fun when there were less ads?]. Edit: Now they want your credit card too!
- 2. Pretensions to politics. [fwd.us Really? Something about this just ain't right].
- 4. Facebook's crappy treatment of 3rd party devs. I believe Social Fixer likely made Facebook a better place to be, although I never used it. What's wrong with people making client-side tools to make Facebook's site more enjoyable?
- The bloated arching rise of the Junk Web. I love me some cat macros but some of my 'friends' are completely out of control on Facebook. And it's ugly.
- The inane posts, VagueBooking, and general time wastage. I'd rather get excited and make things than sit and read about someone else eating their dinner.
- Cross-site tracking and monitoring what I'm into, yo.
All this being said, I love you people and think the internet is a great place. Too bad it's being compartmentalised and monetized so aggressively. I'll be in touch, and you know, when we chat next I'll have more new stuff to tell you cause you didn't hear it all over Facebook!
I may return to Facebook at some point in the future but likely only as a photography or app business entity as I fully recognise the power [hand raised to eye in salute] of 'the social' in this regard.
P.S. if you have interesting reasons why are or are not on Facebook I'd love to hear from you in the comments! What did I miss? Why should I still be there? What did you have for breakfast? Don't hold back.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
So... I don't know about you, but I find the furore surrounding Edward Snowden's revelations regarding the NSA and big tech companies betrayal of it's users and their data astounding. I mean we used to joke that privacy on the internet was a thing of the past and now we know conclusively that it really is.
|Edward, we ALL owe you a beer, and probably a LOT more.|
"If you have nothing to hide you don't need any rights."
Things have changed dramatically in a few short months. The online landscape has forever altered. US spying programs with names like PRISM, Five-Eyes, Xkeyscore, Tempora and more yet to be revealed are illustrating [much to the US' chagrin] just to what extent ALL our communications are being hoovered up 24/7 in rolling caches of searchable records. And individuals like NSA head General Keith B. Alexander are struggling to stay on top of the leaks and are forced to engage in a comedic cat and mouse game of leak vs assurance in what increasingly is a massive abuse of the trust of the every American citizen.
And it's not just the US. The UK have a three-day rolling store of pretty much everything going in and out of the United Kingdom in electronic form. And metadata storage for up to 30 days. Metadata can be more revealing in analysis than the actual conversation in your phone call. Information about who and when you spoke to someone and for how long can be manipulated in ways that yield connections between parties otherwise invisible at first glance.
Here in New Zealand, the ongoing saga of Kim Dotcom being illegally spied upon by the NZ government simply won't seem to lay down and be quiet. This is likely because the GCSB and NZ Police force used PRISMs data supplied by the NSA in their efforts to raid his Auckland home and place him in police custody on behalf of the US government. If the NZ government is using PRISM to look for copyright offenders where do they draw the line with your information? PRISM was designed to facilitate US government surveillance of foreign intelligence targets "reasonably believed" to be outside of the United States during the Bush era, not spy on what music you might be downloading.
"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."
This famous quote by activist John Gilmore from the Electronic Freedom Foundation seems to suggest that the internet can heal itself and work around problems like censorship. Organisations or governments that wish to know what your internet connection is carrying use technology like deep packet inspection and internet filtering that are designed to detect the nature of traffic on the internet. However in the wake of the knowledge that the NSA and GCHQ actually fibre-tap the very cables that cross undersea between our countries before they come into contact with your countries different landing points and ISP's, this sentiment now seems more like a wistful, rose-tinted vision of the pre-Snowden era that we'd now like to magically come true. And it's really not going to.
Laura Poitras and Glen Greenwald
Sympathy for the devil?
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Skype and most recently Apple...
We all use something from one of these companies in some shape or form, right? And they all let the NSA in the door and they all share data with the US government. They are now clamouring for permission from the US government to reveal the amount and type of data requests placed upon them in an effort to own up to their part in the information hoovering. I find it very hard to have sympathy for them at this point and indeed so it seems does Europe and other large parts of the world. Confidence in cloud-based storage products is taking a bashing as anything connected to the internet is vulnerable. I'm not about to trade-in my cellphone for paper and pen but it makes me think twice about *free* services like Gmail or Facebook.
Now the conversation about real privacy begins.
I think we're lucky that the debate is happening. I believe we're lucky that a democratic world-leading country is at the heart of these revelations and is attempting to deal with them in any sort-of public fashion. I find it hard to imagine many other countries owning up to the nature and extent of programs like that which the NSA are engaged in and discussing ways of backing up and out of the current situation. I acknowledge that there are necessary lengths that governments need to go to in order to protect it's people and I don't pretend to know where that line gets drawn. But it simply does not include my internet t-shirt orders by default, right? Or your phone call to order pizza? Or our drunken text messages from last night? Or your Facebook status update about how you just fed your cat. Or indeed the photos of your cat on your cellphone.
So now the rush to build proper NSA-proof encryption begins as it's revealed that the NSA has worked hard to undermine established encryption standards so they can peer into hidden communications. Discussions and tips about how to remain unseen by the NSA and secure online are highly informative. Can you reliably use TOR or not? And who wants to? Who wants to have to jump through all these hoops to protect our privacy? What is it worth to you or me who previously took it for granted that no one was listening?
I'm not sure but we are going to find out. Sooner rather than later thankfully.