Archive of Posts from December 2004

Hawaii Pictures

Aloha! sk and I just got back from our Christmas in Hawaii. We went to Honolulu and stayed in one of the many, many hotels in Waikiki. (Our room had an amazing view of the beach.) It's the closest I've ever been to the equator, and as you might expect the weather was warm and humid. (Not quite as warm and humid as Nebraska in late August, but close.) The city seemed like it was inhabited only by tourists, and it was rare to see a Hawaiian going about their daily routine that didn't involve tourism. (Especially in Waikiki.)

Of course news of the tsunamis cast a shadow on our trip. The ocean is ever-present in Hawaii, and it's hard to imagine something so beautiful causing incomprehensible destruction. The local news assured everyone that a tsunami wouldn't be as destructive in Hawaii. I feel strange posting tropical vacation photos in light of the worst natural disaster of our lifetime. Even though the pictures and videos we're all seeing of waves, palm trees, and the ocean are devastating—there is a peaceful side.

Now my feet are back in their sock-prisons, I'm re-learning what day of the week it is, and I'm getting used to seeing the outside world through windows. Here are some photos from the past few days.

flowers on Diamond Head (click for more)
flowers on Diamond Head (click for more)
I had a great time in Hawaii—hopefully I'll get to visit again sometime. Happy New Year!

PC Mag People of the Year

I was generously included in a list of People of the Year by PC Magazine for my work at Blogger. I'm amazed every day at the breadth and reach bloggers are achieving, and I feel very lucky that I could play a part in helping this form of communication spread. PC Magazine is very kind to recognize me—thanks! Congrats to Meg, Evan, Ben, and Mena!

black & white conversions with ring-around

If you want to convert a color photograph to black & white in Photoshop, there are a bunch of ways you can do it. For the longest time, I used the Hue/Saturation dialog—taking the saturation down to -100. The shortcut for this is: Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate. This works well, but I found a new technique in the oct/nov issue of Photoshop User that I'm hooked on called ring-around. I won't go into the gorey how-to details, but it uses "Channel Mixer" adjustment layers to produce twelve separate images with different settings from the source color channels.

ring-around clock image

It's hard to tell from these tiny images, but each one is slightly different. (Take a look at the dot in the center of the clock.) Each image is a blend of color channels in different percentages. One is 100% red, another is 75% red and 25% green, and so on. Using a Photoshop action, this whole process is automated. So I create the 12 images with a click, and then I can go through each one to see which had the best conversion. From there, I go back to the original image and mix it to blue 75%, red 25% (or whatever) in the channel mixer with the output set to Gray. (If the final output is print, you could print all of the samples to see which looked best in its final form.) It takes a bit longer than hitting Desaturate, but I like the extra control over the conversion.

timestamps and weblogs

Observation: a weblog without timestamps is like a bicycle without tires. Sure, it sorta looks like a bike—you could even try to ride it—but it would end up being an exercise in frustration.

Update: On second thought, a weblog without timestamps is more like a play without actors. Sure, there's a lot of witty dialog, but...nope...that's not it either.

Update: Can you imagine receiving email without the time it was sent? It would drive me insane. There's a big difference between an email sent at midnight, and one sent at 4am. Same with weblog posts. So I guess a weblog post without a timestamp is like an email without a timestamp.

Update: The irony of not including the time with each update to this post is not lost on me.

Oregon Bloggers on OPB

Speaking of radios, a trio of Oregon bloggers were interviewed on OPB for a weekly show called Oregon Territory. Infamous locals b!X, Jack Bog, and RoguePundit discussed the state of blogging in our state. If you didn't catch it live, you can listen on the website. (No radio required.)

Antique Radio Dials Redux

My dad has an impressive collection of antique radios. While I was there last week, I took a bunch of photos of the dials. I'm always amazed at the wide varieties of styles that used to exist because radios made today pretty much all look the same.

Radio Dials (click for more)
DeWald Radio Dial (click for more)
I love the fonts they used and wonder if they were standard or designed specifically for the radio. In their day, these boxes were high-technology for the home user.

When I took photos of the dials a couple years ago, I converted the images to black and white: Radio Dials. This time I have a better camera, and I think the colors turned out well in the photos.

Flying in fog

I was on a flight the other day that started with standard pilot chitchat about the weather, but ended with: "Visibility in Portland right now is just a quarter-mile. But the crew is certified to land in those conditions. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight." That didn't make the flight more relaxing for me.

Mt. Hood above low fog
I guess what I wanted to hear is that they land in those conditions all the time—not that at some point in the past they passed a test in landing in those conditions. The fog was bad when we got to Portland, but the landing was great. Thanks certification!

MIT Tech Review on Amazon

MIT Technology Review has an article about Amazon Web Services up: Amazon: Giving Away the Store. I talked with the author—Wade Roush—a while back, and he mentioned some of my comments in the article. He provides a good overview of why Web Services are important for non-techies, and I really like Wade's summary of Amazon's Web Services/syndication strategy:
[Amazon] has, in essence, outsourced much of its R&D, and a growing portion of its actual sales, to an army of thousands of software developers, who apparently enjoy nothing more than finding creative new ways to give Web surfers access to Amazon merchandise—and earning a few bucks in the process. The result: a syndicate of mini-Amazons operating at very little cost to Amazon itself and capturing customers who might otherwise have gone elsewhere.
I mentioned something about Amazon's Web Services strategy being "almost frightening." I think that's becuase I've primarily worked at and with small companies. So when I see what's possible when a large organization decides to pour resources into a project, I'm impressed by what can be accomplished. It's funny to see comments I made in what I viewed as a conversation with someone end up in print, because the quotes feel out of context. (Though I don't think the quotes are distorted or misused here in any way.)

The Incredibles Corvallis Connection

I haven't seen The Incredibles yet, but writer/director Brad Bird grew up here in Corvallis, and he snuck some references in—
Sharp-eyed moviegoers familiar with Corvallis perhaps noticed the picture's two tributes to Bird's roots. Both Spartan Stadium and the now-defunct Western View Junior High pop up...
via the Gazette Times: 'Incredibles' gives a nod to Corvallis

Konfabulator

I registered my copy of Konfabulator today because I like the weather widget. But I just realized I'm in Oregon in winter. It's always going to look like this:

Konfabulator Weather

I could have used this screenshot and saved $25.

Beyond TV Review

I test drove Beyond TV for PVRblog: A PC PVR for Mortals. The bottom line: I'm not ready to replace TiVo with it, but it's nice to know there are viable alternatives out there.

Great Camera Raw Book

Camera Raw with Photoshop My late discovery of Camera Raw format continues. I picked up Camera Raw with Photoshop, and I'm learning quite a bit about how to adjust raw files. As a bonus, I'm learning about how digital cameras work. (I'm going to call my camera a photon recorder from now on, because it sounds like something from Star Trek.) I learned early in my digital photography experience to underexpose everything, and bump up the midtones later in Photoshop. I could almost always salvage an underexposed photo, but if highlights were blown out there was no saving the photo. Camera Raw works differently, though. Completely blown highlights are still trouble, but if you expose the shot toward the right-end of the histogram, you can bring the exposure down in Photoshop and get more detail in the photo. So far I've learned that getting correct exposure when I take the photo is even more critical with raw, but that erring on the overexposed side can have good results. Even learning that the human eye sees shadow-detail better than highlights has me thinking about exposing for shadow-tones as I take photos. (Instead of thinking that the shadows will be all or mostly black in the final photo.)

This book has already taught me a lot about reading histograms, white balance, and color balance. It's written for people who know their way around Photoshop, but I think novices will pick up quite a bit of digital darkroom theory. Reading this has been like watching over the shoulder of a Camera Raw pro as they fine-tune their photos, while they explain why they're making each adjustment, step by step.

ORblogs Design Update

I did some updating at ORblogs today. The site needed a new design for winter, and the new layout should allow further changes down the road. ORblogs currently has 490 weblogs listed, and it seems like there are two or three added every day. The post excerpt list is getting tough to follow without several visits/day. I added some text to explain what's happening on the front page because I can imagine people are overwhelmed by all of the text when they visit for the first time. (Though the notes are click-vanishing if you have cookies enabled in your browser.)