Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

LX7 and RAW

I sold my Olympus E-P1 and replaced it with the new Panasonic LX7, it’s much more portable and has a great f1.4 lens. I shoot RAW on my cameras, and the smaller sensor size of the LX7 benefits even more from this. Turning to my typical models (my dogs), I put it to the test, temporarily setting the camera to save both a RAW and a JPEG of each photo.

These first two shots are zoomed to 100%, and have identical minimal default processing applied with Lightroom. Note how the jpeg portion loses a ton of detail and unnatural-looking unsharp filtering as compared to the raw portion of each photo:

Another advantage to RAW is the fact that it contains information well beyond the dynamic range of a jpeg. Here I was playing by mounting my huge Canon flash to the top, which fired at 100% and massively overexposed the photo. The JPEG is a throwaway. But with the RAW, a few simple adjustments bring back much of the blown-out picture and a improperly exposed photo is saved:

New Photo Galleries

For the first time in many years, I have updated my photo gallery web pages. In the interest of quick browsing and viewing, all thumbnails are on one page. Clicking any will quickly overlay the large image. Simply clicking or using the arrow keys lets you move to the next image without waiting for another web page to load. Images can be found at a glance, galleries can be viewed faster and with less interruption, slides are now larger, and it all works a bit nicer with iPads.

All new galleries will be in this format, including the majority of 2011 galleries.

This is made possible with the integration of a great free HTML5 viewer, Lightview. Old features still exist including GPS info that clicks through to a map, EXIF info, and clicking through (the filename) to download the original image. If you are wondering, I still use JAlbum to generate the galleries, with my own custom theme, as I have for years.

Last but not least, I have uploaded ALL of my 2011 photos. That’s a first for many years! I still have plenty left to post from the previous 32!

Navigation for Everyday Driving

You may remember years ago I used a revolutionary navigation system called the Dash Express that was ideal for daily commuting: with a live Internet connection, it monitored detailed traffic data. While you were driving, Dash let you see conditions in front of you and would change your route if needed. Since the company’s demise I have been instead using my iPhone on my dash with a variety of navigation apps, and as apps have matured, years later I can finally say my iPhone equals the old Dash in usefulness for daily driving. The best part is thanks to apps like Waze and INRIX it is all free!


Before I drive, I run INRIX Traffic for a quick overview of my commute. I have tried many other apps with traffic, including the big name navigation apps, and INRIX repeatedly has the most accurate traffic data. Unfortunately, incidents are rarely displayed (this screenshot a rare exception) but it is perfect for looking far ahead on your drive.


For the duration of my drive, however, I run Waze. Still completely free, what started out as a kludgy navigation app now equals my old Dash Navigation in features, unmatched by others. Hundreds of other drivers are running it nearby (and can be seen on the map), and in addition to using their data to show truly live traffic speed data, anyone can place alerts on the map for warning others.


Stopped traffic, accidents, hazards, and speed traps all show up on your map and give you an alert if on your route. Waze adds some fun to your drive by dealing out points for reports or munching power pellets on undriven roads, as well as social groups and mood reporting. And just like Dash, your arrival time is continuously adjusted by changing conditions. These all combine to not only save wasted time by avoiding traffic, but adding some fun to a boring commute as well.


Boombox Costume

There is a lot of creative competition among our friends for Halloween costumes. Typically I wear some form of cardboard box. I have a tough time coming up with something good each year, but just a week ago I thought of making a boom box–but only if I went the extra mile to make it functional!

The key element is my Sonic Impact battery-powered T-Amp that can power full size home speakers off of AA batteries. One of those gadgets that I grabbed years ago and until now never had a great use for. (You can get a rebranded one here at Parts Express) I also ordered some cheap 2-way 6.5-inch car speakers. The amp did drive the 4 ohm speakers but the sound wasn’t very full, no bass but good enough. I grabbed the SRS WOW MyTunes app which added some live sound processing to my iPhone and really punch up the bass and sound quality, as well as do a bit of DJ-like transitions between songs.

Concerned about power, I duct taped together 8 D batteries to assist with the AA’s. As I started building I changed the design from a huge box around me to just a normal-sized boom box, which I got away with because I managed to come up with a suitable outfit to go with it. I spent a few days making an 80’s rap music playlist including DJ Jazzy Jeff, Run-DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, and of course the Beastie Boys!

Everything worked flawlessly. Thanks to my good friend Physics, the cardboard box resonated perfectly with the speakers and ended up producing excellent sound with plenty of bass. In fact I had no problem overpowering the stereo and large crowd at the party, which it felt like followed me to every room with my own soundtrack following me around! The boom box ran at full volume (except when I was told to turn it down a few times) for many hours and still shows no sign that it’s out of juice. I’ll have to keep it around as an iPhone dock…”portable” at around 20 pounds and powerfully annoying sound, I don’t know why these things went out of style!


A new web site called Mapnificent lets you see how far you can travel by public transportation in a certain amount of time. Simply drag the pin and move the time slider. I made a quick animation above showing 15-30 minutes from my home; Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are easily accessible. This also illustrates a point that I’ve always made: the Charles River is a big divider, most places are more like ovals stretched in and out toward boston, and not a short distance north and south.

A Smarter Lock Screen


Over time, Apple has addressed most of the missing features of the iPhone. A major oversite, though, is the lockscreen and its complete lack of information. Related is the fact that notifications must be in a pop-up bubble and only one can be seen. Apple is long overdue for revamping these into something much more useful and intelligent. The whole point of an iPhone, afterall, is to get information to you quickly and easily.

This is a screenshot of my phone this morning, and what I see whenever I wake my iPhone. Beyond the date and time, I see weather, upcoming calendar events, new email, a list of new text messages if any, as well as all notifications that have come in from various sources. Everything here is interactive as well. Tapping the email will preview it, touching the date gives me a full month calendar, and the weather pulls down to a 7-day forecast. You can clear each notification as you’ve read them.

Right now this is only available thanks to a brilliant jailbreak app called Lockinfo. Every part is configurable, from how each component interacts, to plugins that work with additional apps, and even picking other actions besides the swipe to unlock. It’s well worth its price, but my real point here is that Apple needs to start paying attention to this long-ignored blank space that we all see dozens of times per day. Maybe they should just outright buy this and integrate it in the next update!