Archive for the 'Review' Category

Books Read: 2018

December 31st, 2018

Using my (now aged) Kindle, I do a fair bit of reading. For some reason, whenever I finish a book I put it into a folder on my Kindle named for the current year. These folders exist only on the Kindle itself, so I thought I might start to keep track of them here on the blog.

At the end of 2017 I was reading a lot of memoirs of people who moved into the wilderness, both in recent years and in centuries past. That continued into 2018 and the first book I read was:

Winds of Skilak, by Bonnie Ward
This was an excellent book, written by Bonnie, about her and her husband’s journey leaving Ohio and moving to an isolated island on Skilak Lake in Alaska. Her section on driving their jeep across the melting lake was a real nail biter!

Review: Nikon Coolscan V ED – Still Awesome!

March 4th, 2010

First, as always, the story. Scroll down for my ‘review’.

As a film shooter I’ve been struggling a lot lately with getting my images converted to digital. I have tried two scanners, the Epson Perfection V500 and the Plustek 7500i and while both get reasonably good reviews online, I was not having any luck getting quality scans from them. I’m sure it’s operator error but even at low resolutions the scans were not even half as sharp as the source film and once scanned it took me a long time to process each image to have good color and contrast (let alone getting the scanner to help clean up dust and scratches). I was getting pretty discouraged and wondering if I should really still be shooting film at all. I was looking around online and people with the same scanners as I have were getting great results that looked nothing like mine. They were all talking about curves used and a series of tweaks performed in Photoshop or other software and frankly, I’m not that kind of photographer. I want to be shooting, not processing. Lots of people love the digital end of photography but I am not one of them. I want scanning to be easy. I want to be able to press a few buttons and have scans that look.. you know.. like the film I shot.

Food, Inc. Is Worth a Trip

August 5th, 2009

Most movies dealing with the business of food are jam packed with horrible images and generally scary content. They typically seem hell bent on scaring you and then the movie just ends. This was not the case with Food, Inc. Sure, the film included the obligatory clips of the mistreatment of animals and other not so pleasant topics, but in the end I didn’t leave feeling powerless, I left thinking that I could, in a small way, begin to correct what is happening.

The movie was laid out around many topics, each of which is covered only briefly. They offer a description of what each problem area with our food supply is and then brought in some people to help put a real face to the issues. You hear from a pig farmer, a corn farmer, a mother who lost a child, a farmer doing things the ‘old’ way and a company selling product to Wal-Mart, among others. It’s really quite interesting to see a day in the life of a farmer these days and what has changed.

Music I’m listening to…

October 13th, 2008

It’s been pretty quiet around here on the blog lately which, as always, is an illustration of the inverse in my life. Work is busy, life is busy, plus it’s fall here so I’m spending as much time looking for foliage and visiting fairs as I can. That being said, I’ve been finding some more time as of late to listen to new music in all of my travels.

Back in the day I used to listen to Tonic, a rock band. I was never a huge fan but some of the unreleased tracks on their albums were really excellent. For instance, I really like the song ‘Soldiers Daughter’ on the ‘Lemon Parade‘ album. With that being said I was somewhat hesitant when I first saw Emerson Hart, the lead singer and frontman for Tonic, had released a solo album, entitled ‘Cigarettes and Gasoline. I ended up buying the album though as it kept coming up as a recommendation based on a lot of the music I listen to. Overall I am glad I did. The album is really great in a sort of old school kind of way. My tastes these days are toward honest music that isn’t overly ‘hard’ in terms of instrumentation. I enjoy bands like Disturbed and that ilk but generally speaking I’m usually in the mood for a more calm approach and would rather be pulled in to the lyrics of a song and not the guitar tracks. That is not to say that this album doesn’t have some pretty heavy rock tracks but I would be lieing if I said the album isn’t a bit more on the ‘pop’ side of the spectrum.

Used Stuff from

August 4th, 2008

I ordered some used Nikon gear from this week and I thought I’d mention how impressed with them I was. I should also mention that, of course, they nor anyone else is giving me anything for talking about their products and services. Odds are they don’t even know about it.

I ordered a Nikon TC-200 manual teleconverter and the Nikon 24-50mm zoom lens used from them. Both products were listed as ‘BGN’ or bargain quality according to their condition chart and both pieces look flawless.

The TC-200 is quite old as Nikon began making them on 1988. It’s basically a tube with some glass in it that doubles the focal length of a lens and make the lens one stop slower. If you attach a 50mm F/1.8 lens it becomes a 100mm F/4 lens ect. I don’t know how old this piece of hardware is but I expected it to look a little beat up when it arrived. The only issue I can see is a couple small scuffs on the very bottom where the tele-converter would meet the table if attached to a camera. It’s otherwise flawless. Glass is perfect with no dust and KEH listed this as 70-79% of original quality!

Real World iPhone thoughts…

July 25th, 2008

I’m a geek with an iPhone living out in the boonies and I thought it would interesting to post my thoughts of iPhone use as a contrast to the big reviews posted by people in NYC and San Fransisco.

When I heard that the iPhone 2.0 software would support Exchange email I was pretty excited because it meant the iPhone might make sense for me to use as a phone. I’m a long time Treo user and was reasonably happy with that device. I was able to get my email, post to twitter and use it as a modem when I needed to surf the web. Treo’s have their issues though as they run the much maligned Windows Mobile operating system. My Treo 750 came with WinMo5 but several months ago I was able to upgrade to WinMo6 so my experience should be equal to the average smart phone user. The core operating system is quite unstable and slow. Comically, the only things you could count on were the bugs in the OS. Things like putting a call on hold to answer another would seem to always drop both calls and crash the phone. Everyday at some point the ringer would stop ringing. You would get no noise for emails, phone calls, voicemail. Nothing. It would even stop vibrating. On the brighter side though email access was good and fast. I always got email on the device before my desktop and responding to messages was simple enough to do. It also allowed me to put in multiple accounts and switch between them easily. It wasn’t great but it was the best I had access to. I will admit that resetting your phone once or twice a day just isn’t a great solution.

Apple Leopard Server: Two Weeks Later

May 28th, 2008

So, it’s been installed and running for two weeks. I think I made it pretty clear in the first review that it’s good but not perfect, nothing is and over the past 14 days I’ve had a chance to really dig in and learn new things and fix some problems.

Review: Apple’s Leopard Server

May 22nd, 2008

As you may have read in my twitter feed, I have installed Mac OS X Leopard Server on a basically stock Mac Mini for my personal use. The Mini hosts email and webmail, calendars, directory services and a VPN without any problems at all.

For a little bit of background, by day I am a Windows and Linux admin and am responsible for about dozen servers and ~750 users. I am very comfortable with servers and how they work so this setup was not my first go in the world of servers. This web server is hosted on one of my Linux servers as a matter of fact.

First let’s look at the hardware and where it excels and falls short. The mini is a very small box, it’s 6.5″ square and 2″ tall. It includes within that space a processor, RAM, CD drive (in my case a CD-RW/DVD-ROM, other options are available), hard drive a good offering of ports including Firewire 400, USB 2.0, DVI/VGA video as well as bluetooth and WiFi. They manage to fit this all in by using clever engineering and basically all laptop parts. It’s a great and very quiet machine. The Mini’s hardware offers plenty of power for personal use, family use or a small office with one exception, hard drive speed and redundancy.

Review: JBL Onstage II

February 25th, 2008

When I ordered my 160GB Black iPod Classic I also ordered the JBL Onstage II desktop iPod speaker system. I can’t think of another way to describe it. The feature set of the device is fairly benign, drop the iPod in and you can play back music. It comes with a basic remote to handle some functions such as volume, play/pause, and track skip. Media is chosen by manipulating the iPod itself. It also has a 1/8″ jack on the back to allow for device other than iPods such as computers, ect.

Review: Nikon D300

January 8th, 2008

Since I bought my Nikon D40 back about a year ago I’ve taken nearly 20,000 shots with it and could not be happier with the device. It does everything I had hoped it would and had a large enough feature set that I could grow into it a bit. I love it. It marks a real turning point for me in terms of becoming a ‘photographer’. One thing to be clear on though, spending money on cameras does not a good photographer make. What the D40 does do for me is allow the camera to get out of the way and let me take pictures.

As time has progressed however I’ve learned a lot and have begun to try taking some shots that my camera is not perfectly suited for. To that end, I started looking for a new device. As you can tell, I chose the Nikon D300. It was a tough decision for me but in the end I think the high cost will be worth it. The D300 is what Nikon positions as a semi-professional camera. It’s step down from their flagship D3 but still contains about 90% of the feature set. Truth be told the D300 cost me about the same amount of money as I have spent on all my other photography gear combined. This was not a decision I took lightly.

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