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All Entries Filtered By Date: 2006-01-01
January 24, 2006

[Moriah] Out On The Town

To relieve some of the recent stresses going on in our lives, we decided to take a night out on the town to get away from the apartment. Unfortunately, Daniel wasn't feeling well, but we went anyway and found some new places we would like to go back to.



First, we went to dinner. I had planned on making pasta from scratch at home, but we ended up deciding to go out to eat instead. We had a nice, romantic dinner in an ambient vegan restaurant that just opened near the downtown. It's called NuAge Cafe. We heard about it from an employee at The Spiral Diner in Fort Worth. While a bit pricey because of its upscale atmosphere, we liked it a lot. The food had an Asian flair, but there was a good variety on the menu. They did a wonderful job with the presentation of the food, and it nicely complemented the linen table cloths, decoratively folded linen napkins, flower vases on each table, and ambient lighting. To drink, Daniel ordered the Pineapple Wheat Grass juice. We were concerned because the menu listed honey as an ingredient in the juice, but they told us that they recently switched from a vegetarian menu to completely vegan, so they no longer use honey in their food or drinks. They simply haven't replaced their menus yet. Instead, they have replaced honey with agave nectar in all their recipes, which is extremely tasty! (We use agave at home in place of honey and maple syrup.) Daniel let me have a sip of his juice and it was very good! I think I might order it next time. For our entrees, Daniel had the NuAge Pesto Linguini and I had the Sweet and Sour Tenders. Very tasty on both accounts! For dessert, we shared a slice of their NuAge Chocolate Cake. I was surprised it was vegan! It was nice and moist, very chocolatey, and had a fluffy chocolate cream center and fruit topping drizzled over it. Mmmm! NuAge will definitely be a nice place to go out for more formal occasions, but will also a good place for casual eating.



After we ate, we had planned to go out to the Dueling Piano Bar on 6th Street. However, when we got downtown there was literally no place to park even close to 6th Street. So instead, we ended up driving around, exploring the downtown and its night life. We saw many shops we'd like to look around in sometime. We also parked down by the river and walked to a gazebo overlooking the water. Though it was dark and we couldn't see much, it was still pretty with the reflection of the city lights shimmering on it. We'll go back during the day sometime when we can get a better view. Finally, we stopped at the Wheatsville Co-op for the first time. For the small size of the store, they have a lot packed in there! It's like a mini Whole Foods Market, but with some very unique things. We want to go back at another time and pick up a few of those things we can't find at Whole Foods.



So, while Daniel wasn't feeling well and we couldn't go to the Dueling Piano Bar, the night was still a success. It felt nice to get out and do something different for once, instead of sitting home on the computers! And we found some cool places we'd like to go back to sometime. I can't wait to do this again!
January 21, 2006

[Daniel] Case Mod!

While cleaning up all my computer junk, I stumbled across some old paint pens I had from 2-3 years ago, when I was big into modding computers. Modding is performing modifications, usually to the case of a computer, that range from paint jobs to adding lights and fans to cutting holes for ventilation and plexiglass windows. Since I had these pens and a boring old beige case, I decided to do a simple afternoon mod.



So being the Linux fan that I am and since the computer was running Linux before the hard drive died, I thought it would be fitting to put a penguin on the side of my case.



Tighter Detail



Wide Shot of Side Panel



Overall, it turned out decently. I was happy because the penguin design was my own (as opposed to following an existing design) and the quality of it is decent for freehand art (no tape masking) with paint pens (wide, thick tip). One or two things could better but I'm pretty pleased with the result.

[Daniel] Clean up!

I decided to clean out some of my old computer equipment today. Due to the years of acquiring parts at different times and in different places, I had parts in all kinds of containers. I've been meaning to clean it up for quite some time and today was my opportunity. So here's two pics of the mess!



The Mess



The Mess Alt



After 2 hours of unpacking everything into one space, rummaging through, cleaning, sorting and throwing stuff out and putting stuff away, the whole mess is gone and the room is actually cleaner than when I started. Some fun stuff: I threw out 19 IDE cables, 3 dead CD drives, 70 Gb of hard disk space spread across 3 dying/dead drives, 2 dead ethernet card, a old 28.8 modem and a 40 Mb "Jumbo Tape Drive" (laughs), among many other things. I also found my old school Apple Remote (not the new one that comes with the iMac and MacBook Pro).



The downside in all of this is that my PC is now effectively dead as I have no hard drive for it. I've had 3 drives (all various ages and use) die within 4 days of each other. So it will wait until I can afford a SATA drive for it.
January 19, 2006

[Daniel] Adobe Lightroom Beta v1

I tested out Adobe's Lightroom beta last night to get a sense of what it was all about. My overall feeling is that while it's decent, I'm not as impressed as I felt I ought to be by using a professional grade application. I tried out both the stand-alone version (12 Mb) as well as the version that came with RAW samples (110 Mb). Both were beta v1. The betas were run on a 933 Mhz iBook G4 w/ 640Mb of RAM, Mac OS X 10.4.4 and few other applications running.



User Interface

The UI is moderately quick and entirely custom (uses no Mac OS X widgets to speak of). Making this even more difficult is the completely different feel of the widgets. I was over 30 minutes into using the application before realising I could scroll some of the panels because the scroll bar did not look like anything I had used before.



Speed is a little slow in just about everywhere, which is expected during a beta. Especially hindered were the transitions between workflow areas, scrolling and selecting. Again, this should improve substantially by the time the official release hits. It does use some of the same concepts as Aperture, such as stacks and whatnot. It also has a literal Lightroom mode that, by hitting the "L" key, causes the screen around the visible images to darken then go black if "L" is pressed again. This allows the photographer to compare the photos easily without distraction. It also has a slideshow view to go through the pictures at a large size.



A feature it lacks that Aperture possesses is the abilty to layout the photos in a pleasing way for presentation purposes. The UI present in Lightroom is very functional only and obviously targeted specifically at, and only at, the photographer.



The other painful aspect was the issue of thumbnails. Even after importing .jpg pictures off my camera (which are significantly smaller than RAW), the creation of thumbnails was slow. Worse still, if you moved quickly from the import to the slideshow, images that had not yet been processed (thumbnail creation happens in the background) would play in the slideshow as a giant, pixelated image as though the slideshow were being played through an Atari. Very disorienting and unexpected.



Picture Manipulation

The picture quality is fantastic. I lack a digital camera that can take RAW photos but the quality was obvious when playing with the version that included samples. While some manipulations are possible from the Library area of the workflow, most take place in the Develop area. Here, a good range of editing options are available, including some easy preset changes. Photoshop it was not but a substantial amount could be done in this area. There are a wide variety of color adjustments, some noise and lens correction options and curves present, though not all appeared to be in a working state. A histogram appears in the upper left at all times and displays the effects of your changes on it. Also present was a very useful eye-dropper, which instead of grabbing the color of the pixel beneath the cursor, allowed you to adjust the entire image automatically by selecting a white pixel from the picture.



A feature missing from Lightroom is the ability to fix red-eye. Even my copy of iPhoto handles red-eye adjustments so it was surprising to find it missing from Lightroom.



Lightroom is also missing a way to select portions of the image for editing/adjusting, which I found equally puzzling.



Import

Importing was a very different experience from using an application such as iPhoto. The interface displays a new window (one of the only times during use of Lightroom). It displays the photos taken, grouped by the day they were taken on. They allow/encourage you to set up collections, keywords and other metadata about the images up front.



The only confusing part was in choosing what photos not to import, as it was a non-obvious process. Afterward, the photos were placed directly in my library and the thumbnail generation process started (which lasted about 15 minutes for 22 .jpg pictures - not so great).



Export

I tested out several of the export capabilities already present, including the HTML export, the Flash export and the PDF export. All worked well, with the HTML version dumping a web page that had a gallery/slideshow on it, the Flash version which also generated a web page that included a smooth and aesthetically-pleasing Flash gallery and the PDF generating a PDF file, one image per page. All were good quality and easy to perform.



Print

Lightroom's Adobe heritage shines through in this regard. The print settings are widely varied and very capable. It is easy to generate many different layouts, including a one-click contact sheet. The quality preserved here is equally impressive.



Overall

While the existing features already present in Lightroom are good, my personal feeling after using Lightroom is that of wanting. As it stands, Lightroom strikes me a iPhoto for photographers. Decent, but not near the features I would expect out of a professional application. When I can do 90% of the Lightroom functions from iPhoto (a consumer application), there isn't much allure in spending what will likely be a several hundred dollar application.



Adobe is clearly trying to get a foothold in a market that is finally beginning to accept new technology. More and more pro photographers are starting to go digital as the SLR cameras have improved. While Apple's Aperture may have an early lead, Adobe's approach appears to be that by getting photographers attention early and letting them try before they buy, the photographers can influence the direction of the application and will see what it can do before dropping money on it. Adobe benefits from both of these things greatly as it minimizes their risk in developing a new application and gaining market acceptance. It will be interesting to see if it pays off for them.



Adobe is working on creating a Windows port of the beta which they expect to release in the near future for testing purposes. The current beta expires in June 2006. Download
January 17, 2006

[Daniel] Top 10 Reasons To Date A Geek.

I think it's funny how some people are beginning to re-evaluate the appeal of geeks. I get a good laugh out of articles such as this one from the wife of a top Microsoft blogger: In Defense of Geeks



I hate it when blogs re-post another blog's entire content but I simply can't resist replicating my favorite part:

9. ...He won't cheat on you either. You don't believe me? Here's a test. Place the sexiest woman on earth in a room with a geek, say Angelina Jolie in a Victoria Secret sexy lingerie. At the other corner of the room, place the latest model of some computer or other. I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that your geek would want to play with that computer much more than getting to know Angelina Jolie.


Hilarious (and true, at least for me)! While this is not the first (nor the finest) article I've read like this, I do think it funny that being geeky is starting to become acceptable by mainstream culture. Perhaps we are not all the asocial pathetic creatures that pop culture thinks we are...
January 13, 2006

[Daniel] WordPress 2!

Consistent with my early-adopter patterns, we've upgraded our blogs to WordPress 2.0. So far, the new features seem nice/interesting and the upgrade was dead simple in classic WordPress fashion. Moriah's custom theme will return soon.

[Daniel] Minor Surgery

I had a little out-patient surgery today. Nothing major nor serious but it solved something I have been dealing with for almost ten years now. Went in to the podiatrist and had a severe in-grown toenail removed from my right big toe.



"In-grown toe nail?" you might say. "That sounds like nothing. Get a clippers/scissors, ya lazy oaf!" Except this in-grown caused extensive bleeding and infection for many, many years. It's nice to finally have insurance and to be able to pay off my own deductible.



Recovery is expected to take several weeks so I'm definitely going to be off my feet as much as possible and taking it slow when I'm on them. Hopefully, that will means some more code coming from my direction.
January 10, 2006

[Daniel] New Guitar Strap!

I recently purchased a Planet Waves Planet Lock guitar strap to replace my old, non-vegan strap. This guitar strap is worth mentioning because it's not your ordinary strap. Most straps simply have a hole (usually in a piece of leather at each end). The Planet Lock strap is unique because it has a plastic lock at each end. The inside is rubberized to prevent scratching and the lock has a hinge that swings 180*, so the whole thing is very fluid.



It's a great strap. I owned an original Planet Lock about 10 years ago and it was not nearly as good as this. It's nice to see impressive strides forward, even in something as mundane as a guitar strap.
January 7, 2006

[Daniel] Back.

Xmas was excellent. After two nice long weekends seeing Mom & Dad S. (and Jaimie), we're feeling a little refreshed. The weather here is crazy. One day it's 85* outside, the next it's 35*. But it was nice every day we were up in Dallas/Fort Worth so no complaints.



Bear's been very happy. He got to meet Jaimie for the first time and was happy to go out into the backyard to "Bear"-el roll in the grass, free of his leash. He's also been getting another round of walks (now first thing in the morning, in the late afternoon and one in the evening) so he's up to 3 per day and losing a couple pounds, thankfully. He's a little obese (40lbs instead of 28lbs) even though we fed him exactly what the vet recommended so he's dieting.



And the little brat found his food bag (Ziplock gallon size) inside the bag (standard plastic target bag) we were storing all his stuff in up at Mom & Dad S.'s the night day before New Year's Eve. Mom, Moriah and I were out shopping and Dad had gone to take a shower. He snuck in and chewed three muzzle-sized holes, one in the Target bag to get at the food, one in his bread bag to eat all of the remaining slices (supposed to be used for feeding him his medication) and one in his food bag where he ate a good serving or two! Then he snuck back out to the living room as though nothing had happened. He had everyone fooled until I went to feed him that evening and all his remaining food spilled out on the floor! Needless to say, we were not that pleased with him.



Other than that, not too much going on. Remarkable Framework has received a bunch of downloads (121 at this time) so that's been positive though I've gotten no feedback yet. I'm going to get back to it sometime this week and hopefully crank out a bunch of much needed features.



Finally, we are slowly beginning to transition our photos away from Gallery to Flickr. We're sick of trying to keep Gallery up to date and Flickr seems fun and easy so we're running with it. You can see our Xmas photos here.



Edit: Transitioning back away from Flickr as of 2006/02/26. See the post for that date.