Category Archives: Technology

Articles about general technology.

Olympus Air A01 – A Barrel of Fun

Olympus Air A01
Air A01 body with the kit lens attached.

The Olympus Air A01 isn’t really a new concept, Sony has a very similar option (with a few more features at a slightly higher price), but both strike me as a very real future for camera portability. The primary reason that I went with the Olympus, despite being a huge fan of Sony made sensors, is the body/lens size is smaller on the Olympus and I was going for more portable. In any event, let me state that this is not a review, just my impressions. If you want reviews, there are a number of them out there already and they’re going to have done a better job at it than I will!

In any event, impressions… So, let me start of with: I really, really, like it. Immediate good things that pop to mind are:

  • Small and light, can coat pocket it pretty readily. Pants pocket would be pushing your luck…
  • Fits the hand well. I don’t have especially large hands, so I appreciate the feel of the camera in my hand, it’s not bulky in feel.
  • Responsive and very controllable auto-focus, you basically touch your phone screen for where you want focus.
  • 10 frames a second shooting.
  • Easy to get into weird places. I’m looking forward to putting this in a tree this summer, because I can control lens zoom and focus remotely.
  • Open SDK for software developers is available. So, don’t like their app? Roll your own.
  • You can use it blind, no connected smartphone is necessary. That can give you a bit of an old-time, how did it turn out, thrill.
  • Micro 4/3 standard sensor and lens mount, opens up a good range of lens options, not just from Olympus. That was also a reason I passed on the Sony.

Some quick short-comings:

  • No flash. This is where the SDK might become useful, being able to trip a flash via some other means, perhaps over the 3.5mm jack, would make a camera like this very handy in the studio.
  • Integrated battery. It’s USB chargeable, so it’s possible to extend using the same portable power packs we often have for smartphones.
  • No Raw+JPEG mirror to the phone. You can mirror if you shoot JPEG only, though image copy to the device after is actually quite quick and easy.

All-in-all, I think the short-comings aren’t really that big of a deal. The image quality is excellent, the camera is responsive, and the creative options seem quite limitless when comparing it to the bulky beast that my D800 is. Mind you, I don’t see me giving up the D800 any time soon, but it’s nice to have a very good, high IQ, camera that I can more readily carry around with me.

My incredibly affectionate Betsy

So, where I can see this sort of camera really getting used?

Well, clearly street shooters would find it really useful, the stealthiness is pretty obvious. One of the challenges of shooting on the streets is reactions to having big cameras pointed at them. With this, you don’t even need to be looking anywhere near where they are!

Product photography under continuous lights. The lack of flash is a challenge, but putting the camera on a tripod, yes it has a tripod mount, and then controlling from a big IOS or Android tablet is pretty nice.

Wildlife stealth shooting, one of my plans, because it’s small and quiet and you can get out of the way while still controlling it. Range of wireless appears to be around 30 feet or so, but that can get you out of the general visible area.

A candle lantern on my back porch

Some quick specs:

  • Micro-SD card slot
  • 10 fps
  • 16MP Micro 4/3 Live MOS sensor
  • Shutter speeds from 4s to 1/16000s
  • Full HD 30fps video
  • Full tripod socket
  • App available for IOS and Android

Phishing with Bad Bait

I have to wonder, really, who falls for some of the phishing expeditions out there. Every now and then, a phishing email manages to elude my filters and make it to my inbox and, for the most part, they just make me laugh and toss it into my junk folder to get picked up by my bayesian filter manager. The latest finally sparked me to write about it…

Basically, this email purported to be from “Apple Customer Support” with the wonderful subject of “Support” because nothing gets a message of seriousness across faster than a subject like “Support” does. Clearly, should this be from Apple (stick with me here), they’re obviously feeling a financial pinch and cutting back on their staff. At any rate, with that wonderful kick-off into the message, let’s have a look at the substance, just for shits and giggles…

Your Apple ID Has Been Disabled For Security Reasons!

Oh My God, You Have To Be Shitting Me! Save Me Obi Wan, You’re My Only Hope!

Someone just tried to sign in into your Apple account from other IP Address.

Holy crap, other IP Address, let’s panic! ‘Cause, you know, it’s not like people wander around with mobile devices logged into Apple accounts using various WiFi points or anything…

Please confirm your identity today or your account will be Disabled due to concerns

we have for the safety and integrity of the Apple Community.

We need you to this because we don’t know who you are, except that we know who you are, sort of. We think. Maybe? Well, just in case, could you do this? You know, because your account is the one account to rule them all and if you don’t, well, who knows what will happen to untold millions of users in the Apple Community. It could be a disaster on a global scale. Or not.

To confirm your identity, we recommend that you go to  Verify here >

Well, so much for the doom and gloom, they recommend that you  Verify here > because, well, pretty please?

 copyright 2014 Apple Inc. All Ruggt reserved

I wouldn’t want to mess with their Ruggts I have to say, who knows what they’d do? Dangerous folks, these phishermen. Quite dangerous. If nothing else, they might trip over their competency, fall into a cesspool, and splash you with some gross ooze. Well, probably not, but if that option isn’t more plausible then you clicking on  Verify here > then you need to stop using any and all computational devices now.

Random tech thoughts

On the IT front, I was thinking about my last company when they decided to lock down everyone’s computer by removing admin access to it. I managed to bypass that with local accounts at the time, but looking at it in hindsight I had some thoughts. First, I can state that I could do their job. I know I can, I’ve done it, and I’ve had IT people come and ask me for help (especially in UNIX environments). Second, I can state that they can’t do my job. I know they can’t, they don’t have the programming and design skills to implement software.

Those two statements form the basis of my thought on this: why are IT people making decisions about my work computer? They are distinctly not qualified to determine what facilities I need or don’t need and, from that basis, should keep their hands off of the machine. Now, in my current company, this is the case, but that is not the most common of situations and that is despite the fact that we can indisputably say that the guy making the decision is unqualified.

I realize that people will say that it’s not my computer, it belongs to the company. This is true, but IT doesn’t run the company, even if they think they do. Their job is to provide the facilities that I require to perform my job. It is not their job to decide what facilities I require, I decide that, that’s why I’m in the role. Now, if some IT person is willing to come by and categorically demonstrate that they can do my job, I will concede their right to decide. Until then, I expect them to keep off my machine.

Now on to the Google OS… Google, if you’re not aware, is taking their plans a little further beyond their regular realm to challenge Microsoft in a more direct manner: the desktop. Of course, this isn’t all that new, the open source world and Apple have been trying to do the same thing and haven’t even come close to succeeding. Google may also join them in that, but they may not, here’s why:

1. They don’t have to invest huge resources to this. The bulk of the work is based on the Linux kernel and the surrounding platform, notably Ubuntu as the base. Google has massive Linux expertise, their platform runs on it.

2. Google understands “easy” in the same way Apple does. Apple’s OS X is a UNIX platform, but the majority of users really don’t know that and don’t care. It runs, it’s point and click, and they don’t have to dig into the nuts and bolts. Google dethroned Yahoo, amongst others, with a single input box. That’s all. It’s at the point that their name is now a verb.

3. Name, that’s a good one as well. Google is probably as well known as Microsoft, it may in some senses be even more well known. There are people that have no clue what operating system is on their computer, but they do know that if they need to find something, they go to Google. Yes, Apple has huge name recognition, but probably more for the iPod and iPhone than computers these days and Apple is all or nothing, you have to buy both the computer and the operating system and it isn’t cheap. Apple is substantially more expensive than others.

4. That leads to price: free. Not going to happen in Redmond or Cupertino.

5. Money is also a factor and Google has it. This is pretty key, while Apple has certainly increased the coinage over the last several years thanks to the aforementioned iPod and iPhone, they haven’t really invested in their computing platform. Google has cash coming out every opening and they aren’t selling hardware or, for that matter, the operating system. They’re selling services and they can advertise those like crazy, you just need to buy that nice little system from Acer running their free operating system.

6. History repeats itself. There was a time when most people sat down in front of a dumb terminal and ran all of their applications on a bigger computer, sharing resources and software with other users. Today, they call that “cloud computing” and Google is heavily invested in it, but they aren’t alone, so is Microsoft. The concept is simple, you don’t install the software on your machine, you use it over the network. Google apps are popular and are being used by business, so there is a real potential for their operating system, nicely designed to work with all of that, to make real grounds.

7. That comes back to price again… Microsoft is expensive. They do have value, I’m not an open source fanatic that fails to see that, but it isn’t cheap. The problem I see is that their cost may be exceeding their value and I think Microsoft is seeing that too. Their actions in recent history certainly seem to indicate a shift in their thinking, especially with embracing more standards and the whole concept of Azure, they may be getting it.

8. Getting it. The 800 pound gorilla can be toppled, just look at IBM. IBM didn’t get it, they saw software as a loss-leader, a way to sell hardware. Microsoft got it, hardware had bad margins, software had huge margins. Take away the source code, sell the binaries, make a mint. Microsoft has certainly made a mint, they have revenue that exceeds many countries. However, some software is really not that important, it has to do certain things and that’s it, other software is what matters, and so the operating system is really not that important from the user perspective and it shouldn’t be. If you have to pay attention to it, something wasn’t done right. Google sees this as an avenue and it may well exist. The average user just wants to web browse, send emails, play around on Facebook, chat with friends, and play the odd game (maybe). None of that is the operating system.

The shift is happening, Google gets it. So, to succeed, they really have to hope Microsoft doesn’t.

IE 6 and 7 have to die

IE 6 became the defacto web browser years ago and then stood still. In that time, since it was released, we watched the rise of browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Opera, and now Chrome. These are browsers that have made a steady effort to meet web standards. The result? Internet Explorer, as a whole, has lost almost 50% of its market share.

Microsoft hasn’t stood still, they finally released IE 7 after it became clear that Firefox was eating their lunch, but IE 7 wasn’t good enough. Sure, it copied a bunch of features from the other browsers, but it did diddly-squat for web standards and people noticed. Thus, IE market share continued to erode. There’s a lesson in that: sites are getting sick and tired of having to put in a whole bunch of hacks just to make IE look and behave like every other browser on the market. This appears to be affecting the end user who are starting to see a substandard experience compared to the others and thus started to abandone ship.

Microsoft certainly noticed and has now released IE 8. Interface wise, it’s pretty similar to IE 7, but that’s the end of it. Finally, and it’s about time, Internet Explorer has become substantially more compliant to web standards. What this means, for the user that has been clinging to Internet Explorer, is that the excuses are done. If you don’t want move from Internet Explorer, that’s fine, but you had better damn well upgrade to the latest version and join the rest of us in the modern age.

That goes for IT people as well: get it done. The simple fact is, you guys are the single biggest reason IE 6 is even on the radar of web site development. Enough of it, you’ve had plenty of time to test and so your excuses are also done. I’m sure that I speak for every single web developer on the planet when I say that we’d like to give you a swift kick where it hurts the most because it hasn’t happened.