Archive for October, 2006

Photography: Canon EOS 20D DSLR and wedding photography business

October 16, 2006

I enjoy doing photography, though I’m the really amateur photographer. Photography became my little business. Time to time I do wedding photography, children photography and some nature photography. Currently I have Canon EOS 20D digital SLR. I would that this camera is a little more than the amateur photographer would need :). After using a DSLR for some time I got used to it so much, that when the point and shoot camera gets to my hands I immediately start complaining about little picture control :). On a DSLR there are so many things you can control and Canon does a good job on putting all the needed controls throughout the camera body. You can easily and quickly change a certain setting like ISO or shutter speed when you know where those controls are.

Wedding photography. Wedding photography is a good business, though this kind of photography requires much skills and definitely a good imagination :). A good camera and set of lens would be as well useful. Usually I work with Canon EFS 17-85mm, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 and Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lenses. This set allows to do wide angle pictures as well as close-ups with good depth of filed feeling (especially the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is not that expensive). I was encouraged to buy the EF 50mm lens by many pictures I saw on Flickr taken specifically with this lens. Ok, the business itself. The average cost for a wedding shooting is $500-$700. The price includes the 8am-8pm shooting day plus numerous hours of retouching and fixing the pictures. Usually up to 20. Slideshow on a DVD will add another $100 and another couple of work hours. The $700 prices excludes the wedding album, which costs up to $400. Albums are done not quite often, instead the couple prefers to do the album themselves. So generally it is a not bad business for a college student. All you need to do is to earn good reputation on the market and have a couple of clients a month (which does not happen quite often during your first steps).

You can check out my photography work on my Flickr page at http://flickr.com/photos/freeborn

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Technology: Programming instructors at college do not allow projects to be turned in on floppy disks…

October 12, 2006

…intead they require to bring them on a CD or a thumb drive (USB flash drive). Finally we got to the point that floppy disks are gone from our daily usage. Instead they are replaced with more advanced technology like pen drives. I remember me reading in the tech magazines the review of one of the very first thumb drives which had a total of 32MB of available space :). That was a huge step back in 2001. Not that many people bought it back in those days, because of their not so low price. But in few years things got way better and now we even do not notice this technology advance. They got deeply into our daily life and we can find pen drives with MP3 players, faster transfer speeds, smaller sizes and greater capacities.

Games: Battlefield 2142 Demo

October 9, 2006

I’ve been playing Battlefield series since the first version when they did not have such beautiful graphics as they do now. With the release of Battlefield 2 the game got popular even more. Graphics, physics, maps and multiplayer mode became way better and eye appealing :). In summer of 2005 it was one of the most computer resource demanding game. Many people who wanted to switch to the new version had to do to major upgrade of their computers. I was playing it on GeForce 6600GT which was not the best graphics card at that time, but was rather good. I’m still on 6600GT, but on PCI Express, because I got a new mobo with PCI Express supports and a new CPU and so I had to switch to PCI Express graphics card. I’m not a full-time gamer, so I cannot tell the difference between the AGP and PCI Express variants of this card (both cards are MSI).

Battlefield 2142 itself. I must admit I did not read many previews and reviews of this game, but I was watching for new screenshots since the day of announcement by EA. I remember how about 10 screenshots appeared on Gamespot. I was impressed with the new models and new effects. I must say the game looks better and runs better on the same hardware I used to run Battlefield 2. It looks like they have worked hard to improve the game engine and add some fascinating special effects.

Battlefield 2142 Demo

Battlefield 2142 Demo

Battlefield 2142 Demo

Β New models and vehicles are also cool. I like the walker. It’s not that easy to kill it and at the same time it’s quite powerful :). The new ships (or helicopters) are a bit easier to control than those in Battlefield 2. I would not say cars or tanks are faster, but there is a hover tank which is quite maneuverable.

The new game mode – Titan. It is a great new feature of Battlefield 2142. Titans is the main base of the team that flies over the surface and where soldiers can deploy. They have two ships that can fit up to six soldiers. The other way to get from Titan to the ground is to jump from it πŸ™‚ (it’s better to use parachute in that case :)). But the main point of Titan game mode is to destroy the enemy’s Titan. There are missile silos deployed on the ground which launch missiles on the regular basis. The more silos the team have captured the faster they can destroy the enemy’s Titan. You can also get inside the Titan to destroy the reactor core which is usually faster than waiting for missiles to destroy it.

I liked the game overall. To me it was something I expected and somehow even better. I enjoy the improved engine – the game runs pretty smoothly on a not new hardware.

Battlefield 2142 Demo

You can get the demo on GameDaily, GameSpot or even torrents.

Windows Vista RC2: installation, first impressions, Aero style

October 7, 2006

In the morning I found that the ISO image of Windows Vista RC2 has completed downloading (the total size was 2.49 GB). Quickly I found the blank DVD+R disc and also found that it was the last DVD from the 50 pieces disc pack. Well I was lucky that I had at least one left :). I burned the image using my favorite burning software Nero. I wanted to verify my image so I made Nero to “Verify written data” after the burning process. 10 minutes later the DVD was burned and it seemed it did not have any read problems.

Then I used software to repartition my hard drive. I had to make my primary Windows installation partition smaller and meanwhile deleted the Linux swapspace partition. Eventually I had about 10GBs free, which I thought was pretty enough for Windows installation and couple more apps.

Windows Vista RC2 installation

After completing few steps to get a free serial key from Microsoft (I found some instructions here) I was able to start the installation. The system has just restarted for the first time after I initiated the installation and it seems like it’s completing the installation now.
Some time later…
Well it took over 20 minutes to finish the installation since the reboot. So finally I’m in Vista :).

Windows Vista RC2 desktop screenshot

Windows Vista RC2 Welcome Center screenshot

The first thing you see after you’re done doing some basic setup (user, time, network) is the Welcome Center. It has some worthless stuff and I don’t think anyone will turn to it after having Vista installed the first time.

Windows Vista RC2 Start menu screenshot

Well, let’s get more into it. Start menu. Start menu has not changed much from Windows XP. The changes are not that radical as we saw in Windows XP comparing to previous versions like Windows 2000 or 98.

The most useful thing I’d say is the search field. Once you click start or press the “Start” button on the keyboard the Start menu pops up with the search field focused. What’s the use of it? When you type a search phrase results appear above the search field instead of the programs list. Matched programs appear first, then your browser (IE7) history and favorites and also recent files you have viewed. Program search becomes useful when you want to access an application that you don’t use often and you’re too lazy to look through a huge list of installed software to find that little app. All you do is just type in the app name and press Enter and you’re done. I enjoyed launching Calculator that way. Just type in ‘calc’ press Enter and you have calculator opened. Let’s say you want to access your music. Type in ‘music’ and the first result is the “Music” folder from your user’s directory.

Besides the program search it can do the file search quickly and pretty accurately. I did not have a chance to test the speed on a huge collection of music, videos and downloaded crap, so I can’t speak much about that.

The new Aero look. It looks cool but does not impress me much comparing to MacOS X or Linux XGL (see video here). I think Microsoft could add more cool GUI features. Well, it’s better than XP anyways, so most of us who never used MacOS or Linux XGL will spend hours enjoying the new GUI features of Vista.



One interesting and rather useful feature is the window switching when all opened windows are shown in 3D. It looks good and saves time looking for a specific window. It looks better than Mac’s Expose, but Expose gives a better overview if you have many windows opened. You can also scroll through the windows using your mouse scroll. It brings some realistic look and feel :).

It is also interesting how you can access this feature. The icons in the Quick Launch panel are bound to Win+[Number key] shortcut on your keyboard. For example first icon in the Quick Launch panel is Win+1, second one is Win+2 (which by default is the cool windows switching function).

To be continued…

Windows Vista RC2 download for everyone!

October 7, 2006

Hey, there’s a place where we all can download and try the new Windows Vista RC2. Second release candidate is much closer to what we’re going to see in early 2007 I guess. I’m currently downloading it and can’t wait to install it and use it.

Here is the download link:
http://download.windowsvista.com/preview/rc2/en/download.htm
.
The download size is 2.49GB and it will take some time to download it even on the fast Comcast lines. I guess it will download it overnight on my Verizon DSL.

While you’re downloading it you can check out these cool screenshots of RC2 at:
http://winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_5744.asp

I hope I will post a little review as soon as I have it installed. Have fun πŸ˜‰

Software: GMail Manager – Firefox add-on

October 6, 2006

I’m a GMail user for almost two years (1.5 to be exact :)) and like all of us have been loving it since the first day of using it. We all know how good AJAX works in GMail, how good the spam filters and how much space we all have there :)) So far in two years I’ve used 14% out of 2+GBs they offer. Since the time I started using this time I have not deleted a message. Why? No need to delete messages with that amount of storage.

GMail Manager

Ok, enough for little GMail review, let’s start rolling with this lovely Firefox add-on. So, GMail Manager. GMail Manager is an easy to install add-on as are the rest of Firefox install. After being installed a little panel with your email address appears on right part of the status bar. Before you can start using this add-on you have to configure it. Set up you GMail address, your password, add multiple accounts… Set up is easy and doesn’t take much. Once you’re done configuring GMail Manager it will poll the GMail server with the new message for your current account. Whenever you receive a new message the GMail icon in the status bar will become blue indicating that you have 1 or more unread message. Once you click your email address in the status bar it will take you to your GMail to read the new message. You can also move your mouse over the status bar panel to see the brief info about your new messages (from, subject etc.).

GMail Manager

Another great feature of GMail Manager is associating all of the email links that you see while browsing to your GMail account. Each time you click an email link it takes you to the GMail web site to the “Compose message” page. So basically GMail becomes your fully functional email client which behaves almost like any other desktop email application (like Outlook Express, Thunderbird etc.).

That’s it for GMail Manager. I would recommend it to any Firefox and GMail user. It is a nice addition to the army of Firefox add-ons πŸ™‚

“Get a Mac” ads: the PC guy actually uses Macs since 1984!

October 5, 2006

John Hodgman

I absolutely loved those “Get a Mac” ads by apple. They were funny and were interesting to watch unlike many other commercials we see on TV. Lately Engadget managed to find the guy who played PC in the commercial and interviewed him. John Hodgman, the PC hero, is an editor at the New York Times and a contributor to the Daily Show. Engadget asks if he and Steve Jobs are fellows now, which John denies and says he’s never met Steve Jobs, but wishes he had.

The most interesting part of the interview is actually the first question Engadget asks John:

So first things first: Mac or PC?”

“Here is the joke that is absolutely apt, though I once promised I would never make it: “I play one on TV, but I am not a PC.” It is true. I am first of all: not a computer, but a human being; and second of all: a Mac user, almost exclusively, since 1984. There was a brief period in the wilderness between 1997 and 2003. Let us not speak of it.”

Since 1984? That’s a long time! That’s a huge experience with Macs back in those days where only the richest could afford one. Well, that was kind of a surprise to me that he uses Macs and jus hates PCs. Actually I think it helped him simulate all those PC’s troubles πŸ™‚

PalmOS, QuickNews: Take a podcast with you

October 5, 2006

QuickNewsYesterday while I was looking for a good app that could download podcasts to my Palm Zire 71 I managed to find a really good one which fits my needs at about 90%. QuickNews. Not a super huge app, but rather big as for the Palm application. After installing to your device takes about 600kb.

QuickNews was intended to be primarily used as a wireless podcast receiver (on devices such as Palm LifeDrive or Palm TX, which have built-in wireless adapters, or Palm smartphones). I did not have a chance to test it as a wireless podcast receiver due to lack of hardware, but I made it work using HotSync. Yes, it can download podcasts from the Internet while it is performing the HotSync process. Everything would be good, but the speed during uploading to the device is really slow. The conduit works this way:

  1. Downloads the feeds you have set up inside your device in the QuickNews app.
  2. Looks whether there are any podcasts to download among those feeds.
  3. If there is one it downloads the latest one to the host PC.
  4. When it’s done downloading it starts uploading the mp3 file to your handheld and that’s where the speed is not that good.

Zire 71 has USB1.1 interface which should provide at least 1.5MBps (180KB/s) performance, but it does not. Instead I was getting only about 25-50KB/s. It took over 20 minutes to transfer a 40MB podcast from Mike Tech Show. I wish I had a chance to test that on some other hardware like top of the line Palm TX. That kind speed is a pain if you don’t have enough time to transfer a 40MB podcast. But if you’re going to the work in the morning you can set it up to sync while you’re doing your coffee and taking a shower :). That works for me.

You can choose to store the podcasts and feeds to memory card or the device itself. If you’re planing to get a bunch of podcasts every day a good idea is to buy at least 1GB SD card (2GB is highly recommended) unless you have a LifeDrive :). When podcasts are uploaded to your device (or a memory card) you can just tap the appropriate article in the feed and choose the the “Play Podcast” item from the menu. It will start playing the podcast in your favorite player (AeroPlayer, Pocket Tunes, MMPlayer, RealOne Player, TCPMP are supporter) without opening the player window (at least that’s how it works in Pocket Tunes).

My overall impression about this app are pretty good because it has so many features and preferences you can set up. The HotSync speed is slow but that won’t be a problem if you have a wireless enabled PDA or a smartphone.

Check it out on PalmGear here.

Zoowalu project

October 4, 2006

Currently I’m deeply involved into programming my current project named ‘Zoowalu’. It is a little social bookmarking web site, which I hope will some day grow into a huge social bookmarking portal (ah, those dreams … :)). Though it’s not my primary goal. My primary goal I would say is to improve my PHP and MySQL programming skills (which are basically two main languages I’m writing the code for Zoowalu in). It’s just such a great fun for me :). I just enjoy doing it (reminds me of Linus Torvalds :)) and hope that enthusiasm I have now won’t disappear in the nearest couple of months.

Intro to this blog

October 4, 2006

Hey! Here’s a quick intro to my blog. I’m an 18 year old guy, who’s rather interested in tech, programming and Linux. Why blog? Ah, just wanted to let the world know what I’m doing, what’s interesting (software, hardware) to me and what projects I’m currently working on.