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Friday, January 16, 2004
9:30 PM      

Better News
The LaCie Floppy drive isn't useless after all. It took over a week to get the answer, but at least I hadn't already thrown the drive away. It supports all of the newer formats, but not the two oldest. 400K and 800K floppies are no-go:

Thanks for contacting LaCie Technical Support. Be sure the disk you are trying to use is one of the following:
PC 1.44MB
PC 720K
Mac 1.4MB
Mac 700K
Any other formats, like the older Mac 400K or 800K disks are not supported.
Try a brand new floppy and check in the Disk Utility to see if it shows at all on the left.
Technical Support

With that news, I dug out a floppy that I know was made more recently, and I stuck it in. It mounted fine. My guess now, is that the disk that started this all was an 800K dinosaur egg. By the time you read this, the offending disk (and its equally intractable siblings) will be in the “round file.”

I'm not sure what the guy meant by the “Disk Utility.” Since he said something about it showing on the left, I think he meant the Finder. I guess I shouldn't bitch. At least I have a positive, workable outcome.

[ link | e-me ]

6:10 PM      

I didn't bother
to check how cold it got last night. I figure we hit record cold, but thankfully, the plastic on the window, the electric radiator, the blankets, and our sleep clothes kept us comfortable.

Near dusk, the snow was blowing like dust off the rooftops. That's one sure way to know it's cold: if it had been warmer, the individual snow flakes would bond together into larger heavier clumps. There would be nothing blowing around.

Walking around Court Street yesterday, I had to chuckle. There was so much de-icer down, that the sidewalks all around were wet, like we'd just had a pouring rain, even though the sign on one of the local banks showed a temperature of 21° – that's 11 below freezing.


Graffiti is everywhere - even on mirrors in the subway. I decided to look up “graffiti,” and discovered that it's actually the plural form of an Italian word. In English, it's accepted as both singular and plural. “Graffito” is the actual singular form, and would refer to a single specific bit of graffiti, but almost no one uses the word that way. I thought it referred to the person who scrawls graffiti, but neither Webster's nor American Heritage seem to think so.


Resurrecting Hitler
I was shocked to read in the Times yesterday that Dennis Miller has flipped his political wig and gone conservative. The guy is defending Bush. Yecch.

He makes an interesting point, though, about people comparing Dubya to Hitler. No, prez boy isn't Adolph, but let's not forget that he was busy likening Saddam to Hitler not so long ago. Seems to me that anyone who is willing to use the comparison should be prepared for a little bit of it to blow back in his own face.

I have a theory about the Hitler-calling. Whenever someone raises the ghost of Hitler, check out whatever else they're saying. Chances are, they're pushing your buttons to get you to behave in a certain way (irrationally). They're appealing to a powerful emotional trigger. I suspect it will be a long time before the name loses its shock and awe value.


Looking through the first hundred
or so snaps I've taken with the D100, and I'm feeling good about the images I'm getting. I've decided to dub her Nikita. Nice powerful name.

Faster shutter speeds are a welcome change, but I also realize that the flash doesn't seem to render images as cold and flat as the one on the Coolpix did, so I expect to be using the built-in flash a lot more. I still figure I'll pick up the SB800 flash later on, though. More power. More versatility.

[ link | e-me ]

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
12:56 PM      

Lascaux meets Pollock

Modern-day Cave Painting
The cave painters of Altamira and Lascaux only had a visual language; they had no formal written language. We have both, and perhaps graffitos and tag artists use subway posters to express in a way that has a lot in common with those ancient painters. (And we think we're so evolved!)

Read the graffiti, and you're likely to pick up on themes that express what a broad cross-section of people have on their minds. The comments hint at the collective psyche.

Often, the graffiti builds in layers, each new layer responding to the previous additions. In effect, it becomes a dialog or collaboration. Not exactly what “Madison Avenue” was thinking.

When outdated posters are scraped away from the subway walls, the pattern of shredded paper and paint resembles Pollock's famous action paintings – just the kind of background that some street artists are looking for.

It started out as a poster for World AIDS Day - illustrating that the entire world is at risk for AIDS. Someone transformed it into a commentary on global warfare. In case you can't read it, it says “Hey, let's start a war that will never end... Good idea olde mate!... Idiot! The Aussies say 'mate,' not the British.” At least 6 “contributors” gave their input.


Caveat Emptor
When I bought my computer a couple of years ago, I knew the collection of floppies that I'd amassed over the years were mostly useless. Still, I figured there might be a few occasions when I'd need to read a floppy disk or two, so I got a LaCie USB floppy drive just in case. It was only about a hundred bucks, so I considered the expense to be cheap insurance. The other day, I came across a disk that I thought might actually have something useful on it.

I whipped out my USB drive, pushed the disk in, and waited. I heard the disk spin for several seconds while a green access light glowed. Then, the light went out and the disk stopped spinning. I looked for the disk's icon on the desktop. Nothing. I tried ejecting and reinserting the disk. Same (no)thing. I checked the System Profiler. Yup, the drive showed up on the USB correctly. Time to contact tech support.

I filled out a form on LaCie's web site, asking if I needed to update any drivers, and whether there was some other corrective action to take. I heard nothing for several days. Finally an e-mail came back:

It should be a plug and play device in Panther. Is the drive been seen in Apple System Profiler? Also the drive will not mount 800K double density disks. Make sure the floppy is connected directly to the Mac and not into any hubs or the keyboard.
LaCie Technical Support

Amazing! I bought a drive that only reads floppies from the earliest Macs. By the time the Mac Plus came out, double density disks were the standard. Unless LaCie has some kind of fix available for the drive, it's essentially useless.

The lesson? As the buyer, I guess it was my job to ask the folks at MacConnection whether the drive could read double density floppies. If you'd told me to ask that at the time, I would have said it was a dumb question – who in their right mind would sell a drive that only reads 400K floppies? Well, I don't know if they're in their right minds, but I found out who would sell one.

The thing doesn't even make a good paperweight. I think it sucks that they didn't make a “feature” like that abundantly clear.

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
11:51 AM      

Camera Strolling
Putting the new D100 through its paces. The handling is great. I'm getting used to getting it in and out of the bag quickly. Playing with the ISO settings has given me a whole new range of shooting options. Nighttime photography is going to be even more fun now – it's easier to get quality images.

It's got to be fun to watch the owner of this thing riding down the street:

When it comes to public expression, any flat surface will do. You might not be able to tell from the image, but the bee and the flowers are made out of tape.

The subway poster for the Hughleys, below, has turned into a candid, if anonymous, dialogue on race. The comments read like threaded entries on a BBS. More and more, the graffiti on posters contain social commentary and a series of responses to other comments.


Swarthy skin on a mannequin with European features always looks funny,
then there's that hair...


Do you think the Rev. owns this Hummer?

Two forms of worship


[ link | e-me ]

Monday, January 12, 2004
10:10 AM      

“Jackson Family, Fans Plan Show of Support”
Duh! Why is this a news item? I suppose that will be followed by “Jackson Prosecutor Caught Picking His Nose.”

Much as I think the prosecution still needs to prove its case in a court of law instead of manipulating public opinion through press leaks, Michael's “Hits” show last week reeked of damage control. The oddest thing about that show was premiering the song “One More Chance at Love” at the end (Was that a plea or a threat?), then showing “Michael Jackson – Executive Producer” as the first credit.

He could have been ghost executive producer, and listed someone else as E.P., or done like the porn people have for so many years: used a pseudonym. It reminds me of why defense attorneys always weigh carefully whether to put their clients on the witness stand in trials. Too often, defendants get up there and shoot themselves in the foot. Oh well, guess it sells newspapers and soap.


“Now we have a green light for what would come to be called 'legal spam;' the federal law made unsolicited mail legal but no less unwanted.”

In the week since the law took effect, spam-filtering company Brightmail Inc. flagged 58 percent of incoming e-mail as spam, showing no change from December. And America Online Inc. saw a 10 percent jump in spam from overseas, possibly from spammers trying to evade U.S. law. - A.P. report

And you may ask yourself “why is it so hard to write a law that makes spam illegal?” Because junk mailers think their [spam] is more legit than all those spurious Viagra ads, and they've got friends in Congress. Remember the “Do Not Call” list? Direct marketers seem to have gotten a bit more political since then.

[ link | e-me ]

Sunday, January 11, 2004
9:48 PM      

Every once in a while, comes up with a really interesting word of the day. I like the fact that this word for roughness is related to the word exasperate, which has always been a favorite of mine.

William Safire's column in the Sunday Times magazine has an interesting bit of word-play: the phrase “stay the course” originally meant to stop something, or someone in their tracks. In other words, the phrase is now its own antonym. There are other words with the same curious disposition, such as sanction – which means both approval and punishment.


I've spent the weekend bonding with the D100. The camera is amazing. They weren't kidding when they said the ergonomics were very good.

I like working with computers, but I've always found that some interfaces are better implemented with hardware – buttons, levers and knobs – than with soft interfaces like menus. You can control most, if not all of the functionality of the camera through its menus, but using the dial on the top of the camera for tasks like changing the ISO or white balance settings is way more efficient.

Almost looks like it belongs there

The basic operations of the D100 are straightforward. You can have it automatically set ISO, white balance, shutter speed and aperture for you, making the camera fully automatic. Or, you can take individual parameters into your own hands.

I've been over a few speed bumps already. For example, certain auto modes won't release the shutter if the camera can't get a good focus lock. Also, it's a good idea to lock the aperture ring and use the dial controls to change aperture. I couldn't take a shot once, because I'd accidentally moved the aperture ring taking the camera out of its bag. I had to come home and rifle through the manual for several minutes to find out what the error meant, before I could shoot any more pics.

The bottom line, if you want to get the most out of this camera, is RTFM. I even cribbed my own personal index of key features and clipped it to the manual. I figure it'll help me internalize the rest of the functions that I want to absorb.

Some of the pictures I've taken have been lovely, and some have turned out to be hideous lab experiments. I'm getting used to a new way of thinking about shooting, and finding that this camera has a very different grain than the 990. The automatic numbering also doesn't work the same way it did on my CoolPix. The result was that I overwrote some files before I realized that the number sequence was starting over. The documentation on that is a bit opaque. I'm not sure if I've really got that situation completely sorted out yet. I think I'll lean on the support guys at Alkit tomorrow.

The best bag for me turns out not to be a camera bag at all – I ended up purchasing a Crumpler “Blunderbus” bag. It's designed as a small carry-all bag with a zipper pocket for something like a CD player. It's not padded, but the double-thick walls and the seatbelt-grade strap make it really sturdy. It has enough pockets to carry most of the accessories I need with me on a daily basis. Best of all, it doesn't scream “camera,” and the sucker was cheap. When I'm jetting around to exotic locations to shoot, I'll worry about getting the ultra-padded trusty camera luggage. The blunderbus is what I need for traveling light and just slightly under the radar with my camera.

[ link | e-me ]
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