…but my new camera sucks a little too much

[If you’re just join­ing us, see part one.]

I recent­ly felt like I need­ed a new crap­py cam­era in my life. I found myself in a drug­store yes­ter­day, where I pur­chased one of those minia­ture ones, a Viv­i­tar Clip­shot (née Sakar 11693). At $10, the price was right but it’s a lit­tle too cheap to have a screen built-in, and the “viewfind­er” is a laugh­ably inac­cu­rate hole in the body. Even more excit­ing, I thought! It’ll be like tak­ing pho­tos with film and wait­ing to see what devel­ops!

I could­n’t find ref­er­ence to the cam­era work­ing in Ubun­tu with a quick Web search, but the specs on the pack­age claimed that it works in OS X with­out dri­vers. This seemed to imply that it was a stan­dard USB Mass Stor­age device, the kind you plug in and have just work, as it appears to the com­put­er as a remov­able dri­ve.

So I expect­ed quick and easy access to my pho­tos. I was wrong.

The OS detects the device, but not as a nor­mal cam­era device, nor a Mass Stor­age device. This is what lsusb had to say about it:

Bus 007 Device 008: ID 0979:0371 Jeilin Technology Corp., Ltd

Search­ing for that lead me to a num­ber of blog and forum posts where peo­ple dis­cussed ways to pos­si­bly get the cam­era work­ing, but to no avail. This post received a num­ber of replies, with this reply being the most help­ful: (empha­sis mine)

Pro­fes­sor Theodore Kil­go­re from Alaba­ma has been work­ing on a dri­ver for this cam­era. As of about 6 months ago, the Pro­fes­sor had me down­load his dri­ver for the cam­era, and the dri­ver lets down­load files from the cam­era. But since the pic­tures are stored in an encrypt­ed for­mat on the stor­age media of the cam­era, there is still work to be done to decrypt the pic­ture files into a view­able for­mat (this is the last I heard any­way).

The pho­tos are stored encrypt­ed on the cam­era, so you have to use the includ­ed Win­dows soft­ware to down­load them. Glad to know they’re being pro­tect­ed… from me. This crap­py cam­era is a lit­tle too crap­py for me. I haven’t tried it on a Mac yet, but I can’t imag­ine how this could pos­si­bly work with­out dri­vers.

There will be more crap­py dig­i­tal cam­eras in my life, but one can only hope that the next one sucks in the way it should.

Break­ing news: This piece of garbage does not work in OS X either.

Lo-fi cameras are awesome…

I loves me some crap­py dig­i­tal cam­eras.

Ten years on, my first is still my favorite, my Game Boy Cam­era. Thank you Diego, for per­haps the great­est birth­day gift ever. Sure, I had crap­py film cam­eras before, but that did­n’t stop me from lov­ing my GBC like any­one does their first. Using film meant that I could­n’t go wild and exper­i­ment, take tons of pic­tures of stu­pid stuff like any kid with a cam­era does, and any self-respecting adult with one con­tin­ues to do.

That would­n’t exact­ly work with my Game Boy Cam­era, which only held 30 snap­shots and did­n’t come with any way to, you know, trans­fer them to a com­put­er.

Details. To make do, I would delete all but my absolute favorites, the true ‘keep­ers.’ That awk­ward red car­tridge still has pho­tos from walk­ing home on the day in 2000 I got the cam­era, of good high school friends, of a duck from Kendale Lakes, and self-portraits tak­en every few months as I grew my hair to a respectable shoul­der length in col­lege.

Last year, real­iz­ing that I was far from done tak­ing tiny, grainy, black-and-white pho­tos, I bought a sec­ond Game Boy Cam­era, and a cou­ple of Mad Catz PC link cables, so I could final­ly trans­fer the pho­tos. They’re cheap and plen­ti­ful on Ama­zon and eBay these days (the cam­eras, at least; the link cables are hard to find).

There was a time when mobile phones could be count­ed on to take pho­tos of this sort. Sure it might be frus­trat­ing when you actu­al­ly want­ed to take a good pho­to, but think of the washed-out col­ors! The poor light­ing! The blur­ry faces! Alright, maybe it was­n’t so great if that was the only cam­era you had at a mem­o­rable event, but if that’s the sort of cam­era you go out of your way to use for art­sy, leisure­ly pho­tog­ra­phy, I respect that.

My first mobile phone with a cam­era was a Side­kick, and its pho­tos are by far my favorite:

I could add these effects with soft­ware, but what fun is that?

Then came my Treo, which was, unfor­tu­nate­ly, a lit­tle bit bet­ter at tak­ing pho­tos:

I won’t even men­tion my G1, which takes prac­ti­cal­ly per­fect pho­tos. How sad.

I’m glad I’ve been able to shoot with so many crap­py cam­eras, because I know one I won’t be using any­time soon. Sigh.

To be con­tin­ued…

Quiet Loudly and the awesome customer experience

Today I bring you an exam­ple of an inde­pen­dent band that seems to be Doing Things Right.™

The band is Brook­lyn’s Qui­et Loud­ly.

I first became aware of the band from the mostly-excellent, but not often released, Cac­tus Killer Radio pod­cast. While the stuff CKR plays is var­ied, the com­mon thread that ties it all togeth­er is that, for the most part, it makes an excel­lent driving-at-night sound­track. I would often wait months to lis­ten to an episode, until find­ing myself alone in the car at night with a long dri­ve ahead of me.

When I lis­ten to an episode of CKR, I almost with­out fail need to make one or two men­tal notes to find out more about a band, or at the very least, find an MP3 of the song that caught my ear. (Oth­er bands I’ve found this way include My Teenage Stride, Spike, and Sing-Sing.) Episode 52, which fea­tured Qui­et Loud­ly’s “Over the Bal­cony,” had me rewind­ing to hear it again, mul­ti­ple times. I ulti­mate­ly shut off my MP3 play­er at the point in the pod­cast where the song began, so I could hear it again the next day.

I tracked the band down to their MySpace page, where I came across a blog entry promis­ing a copy of their never-to-be-released debut album Destroy All Mon­sters to “any­one that asks nice enough.” I went ahead and did that, and before long found a CD‑R and nice hand­writ­ten note in my mail­box. The disc had unfor­tu­nate­ly cracked in tran­sit, but on the strength of “Over the Bal­cony” and the kind ges­ture, I made a men­tal note to buy their soon-to-be-released (sec­ond) debut album, Soul­gaz­er.

The release date must have slipped a bit, because I checked their MySpace a few times in mid-2009 and found no sign of the album. Then it slipped my mind for a num­ber of months before, lo and behold, I checked in and found Soul­gaz­er had been released!

I knew I want­ed it on CD (I like mak­ing my own MP3s, and when disk space gets even cheap­er, FLACs), but the disc was only avail­able from this not-very-reassuring page. I bought it there any­way. I did­n’t get any e‑mails acknowl­edg­ing my pur­chase (aside from the usu­al Pay­Pal receipt), so I was a lit­tle wor­ried, and made a men­tal note to try to find some­one to con­tact if a few days passed with­out word.

What I end­ed up get­ting instead, seem­ing­ly out of the blue, was a ‘fol­low’ noti­fi­ca­tion from qui­et­loud­ly on Twit­ter! I did­n’t real­ize that I had pur­chased the album direct­ly from them. That they take the time to stalk track down their fans online is, well, com­plete­ly fuck­ing awe­some. While it’s typ­i­cal­ly my pol­i­cy to use social net­work­ing ser­vices for only keep­ing up with peo­ple I know, I was glad to make an excep­tion for them (even if most every tweet they tweet is about shows they’re play­ing in New York).

I took the ‘fol­low’ as my receipt and eager­ly await­ed the album’s arrival. It came a week lat­er, but I had­n’t tak­en into account that my only CD play­er was the one in my car, so I spun the disc for the next few dri­ves, wait­ing until I found a com­put­er with an opti­cal dri­ve, on which I could LAME up some MP3s.

I guess I did­n’t give the enve­lope a thor­ough enough look-through at first — and it’s a good thing I did­n’t throw it out — because I had missed some­thing else inside.

See right.

Seri­ous­ly. How awe­some are these guys?

I hope there’s some New York in my future, because I must see Qui­et Loud­ly live, per­haps many times.

What’s all the PubSubHubBub hubbub?

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, I’m a fan of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and stuff like that. I just don’t always get it right off the bat.

I first heard of RSS/Atom in 2002 or 2003,  when­ev­er Live­Jour­nal start­ed active­ly push­ing syn­di­ca­tion, mak­ing feeds on jour­nals dis­cov­er­able. I looked upon these alien terms with inter­est, but some con­fu­sion. Wait, I can sub­scribe to a blog? Why would I want to do that?

I know what I prob­a­bly sound­ed like back then. Per­haps in a cou­ple of years, I’ll be laugh­ing at myself, won­der­ing what I’d do with­out Pub­Sub­Hub­Bub. Just per­haps.

For now, though, I’m not quite sure I get it. Since Google Read­er now sup­ports the for­mat, I went ahead and found a Word­Press plu­g­in to enable it here on writegeek. I under­stand that to an RSS sub­scriber, it means faster or near-instantaneous updates. And to a pub­lish­er, it mean not only faster updates for one’s read­ers, but less load on the serv­er, since mil­lions of desk­top feed-readers won’t be reg­u­lar­ly request­ing one’s RSS file. (Not that that applies to me… yet.)

Yeah, I’m a bit intrigued at the instant pub­lish­ing, but have a bunch of unan­swered ques­tions. Which servers should I be ping­ing? What moti­vates one to run a serv­er? What are their busi­ness mod­els? A cou­ple of years down the road, when they real­ize that they’re run­ning the most pop­u­lar servers but still aren’t mak­ing mon­ey, will they be putting ads in my feed? And I think I read some­thing about servers talk­ing to each oth­er; how does that work?

There seems to be noth­ing to lose, no lock-in or sin­gle bas­kets in which to place all of my prover­bial eggs,  so I’ll try it out. (That was basi­cal­ly the point of this post.)

Time to click Pub­lish and start jab­bing my F5 key…

I basically have the mobile phone I want, and that is awesome

My G1, in its rooted gloryI just real­ized that I, basi­cal­ly, have the mobile phone I want. I use a T‑Mobile G1 (HTC Dream), root­ed, SIM-unlocked, and run­ning the great Cyanogen­MOD.

I could not real­ly say this about my pre­vi­ous phone, a Palm OS Treo. Though it had its strengths (read: the orga­niz­er fea­tures), I bought it pret­ty much right before the first iPhone was announced, which, for bet­ter or worse, rede­fined what a smart­phone would be.1

My affin­i­ty for the G1 re-occurred to me as I opened the Ter­mi­nal app to check some­thing. I slid the screen open with a sat­is­fy­ing click, typed su and checked that some­thing. I want­ed to go back a bit through my shel­l’s com­mand his­to­ry, and a quick flip of the track­ball made easy work of that.

Sure, I have my gripes… it’s a lit­tle slug­gish some­times, com­plete­ly short on app stor­age space (root­ing fixed that) and takes the crap­pi­est videos I’ve ever seen (worse than my circa-2001 Nikon CoolPix). And now that new­er Android devices are out, I com­plete­ly have 1 GHz CPU-envy, high-res screen-envy, and Android 2.1‑envy (Google Earth, want!).

But for the fore­see­able future, my G1 and I are cool. Its form fac­tor is per­fect. Its phys­i­cal key­board is unmatched by new­er devices with cramped lay­outs. It’s clear­ly no svelte iPhone, but it’s not too chunky either.

My sat­is­fac­tion is matched only by my antic­i­pa­tion for what­ev­er could mate­ri­al­ize in the future and top this. Bring it, future!

  1. By this, I most­ly mean “have a real web brows­er,” not “have no native app sup­port and a charis­mat­ic CEO try to con­vince you that you don’t real­ly want apps on your smart­phone, any­way.”

Corporate logos, visual puns and the juvenile brain that just didn’t get it

When I was young, I just did­n’t get it.

See, I was locat­ed square­ly in Piaget’s pre-operational stage of devel­op­ment, and some­thing fun­ny seems to hap­pen there: you’re only able to take things at face val­ue, miss­ing out on sub­tle­ty, double-meanings, sar­casm… and all that good stuff that isn’t stat­ed blunt­ly. Once you’re a ful­ly cog­nizant indi­vid­ual, you can appre­ci­ate all of that.

As a teen, or per­haps slight­ly ear­li­er, I was sud­den­ly able to see these sorts of things for what they real­ly were. Well, most things. But for a cer­tain class of things that I first expe­ri­enced dur­ing my pre-op stage, I con­tin­ued hav­ing trou­ble see­ing them for what they tru­ly rep­re­sent­ed. Here’s an exam­ple:

the classic Burger King logoWhen I was grow­ing up, this was the Burg­er King logo. (I also walked uphill to school in the South Flori­da snow, both ways. Kids these days.) It’s pret­ty sim­ple, right? The words rep­re­sent­ed the meat, between a cou­ple of buns. To whom was that not abun­dant­ly clear that the logo is a burg­er?

To me.

I did­n’t real­ize that until I was a bit old­er (high school, maybe), at which point it just hit me. It was not for lack of expo­sure; I had been eat­ing at Burg­er King prac­ti­cal­ly since birth. I had a birth­day par­ty there in ele­men­tary school. I was in the god­damn Burg­er King Kids Club!

The fact that I was exposed to this logo so ear­ly in life is pre­cise­ly why I took it for grant­ed. I missed the visu­al pun; as far as I was con­cerned, the logo looked the way it did because that was just what the Burg­er King logo looked like. I sim­ply could­n’t imag­ine it any oth­er way, or hav­ing any oth­er pur­pose than telling peo­ple who see it on the side of a build­ing that they’re look­ing at a Burg­er King loca­tion.

I had no such dif­fi­cul­ty with the stupid-simple McDon­ald’s arch­es. It’s just a big “M.”

old-school Milwaukee Brewers logoHere’s anoth­er exam­ple of a logo I did­n’t ful­ly under­stand or appre­ci­ate. For the record, I was­n’t a Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers fan, but at the age of four or five (and thanks to a friend’s father) I found myself with a huge col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary base­ball cards. Again, until I was much old­er, all I saw in this logo was a styl­ized base­ball and glove… which to a child, seems a per­fect­ly appro­pri­ate logo for a base­ball team. And your aver­age sports-team logo is on the lit­er­al side.

I believe it was at some point in col­lege that I noticed the sub­tle let­ter­ing in the Brew­ers’ logo. What a bril­liant design!

There’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent class of logos that are more sub­tle, with some­thing inten­tion­al­ly hid­den with­in. You don’t need to be a young­ster to miss it.

These tend to be great:

the Goodwill logothe FedEx logoAmazon.com logo

The FedEx logo is wide­ly cel­e­brat­ed, its pun mas­ter­ful­ly sub­tle. It only occurred to me it a few years ago, while dri­ving to work one day. I was behind a FedEx truck. Then it hit me. (Thank you, I will be here all week.)

As for the Good­will logo, this blog com­ment made me see the light, or rather, the huge “g” in neg­a­tive space. I had always just seen it as a face.

The day I real­ized that the Ama­zon logo was­n’t mean to be a smirk was the day I saw the A -> Z.

Can you think of any oth­er good exam­ples?

The right way to eat a Reese’s

Per­haps as a copy­writer, but more like­ly as a con­sumer of media, ads tend to stick in my head, and the tagline that claimed there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s has stuck bet­ter than most. I’m sur­prised to find that, at least accord­ing to the Wikipedia arti­cle, the tagline has­n’t been in use for some time now!

I’d still like to chal­lenge the claim… or at least pro­pose that one method may be supe­ri­or to oth­ers, if you val­ue chocolate-free fin­gers. I under­stand that there is some­times enough over­hang from the paper lin­ing so that it’s pos­si­ble to remove it with­out get­ting choco­late on one’s fin­gers, but this is hard­ly a sure bet.

(This… erm, life­hack, is sug­gest­ed for use with Reese’s Minis. The same prin­ci­ple could be applied to full-size Reese’s, but as we will see in step four, these are miss­ing some­thing impor­tant!)

step one

1. Place can­dy on a flat sur­face and admire it. (Option­al­ly pho­to­graph it, if unwrap­ping for the pur­pose of a how-to blog.)

step two

2. Unwrap foil as nor­mal.

step three

3. Fold two oppo­site cor­ners of foil inwards.

step four

4. (The impor­tant step) Grip the two fold­ed cor­ners with thumbs, with the fold­ed cor­ners ser­vice as a buffer between your thumbs and the choco­late. Apply force with thumbs and fore­fin­gers to sep­a­rate paper lin­ing from choco­late.

step five

5. Admire, but only for a moment. There’s can­dy wait­ing to be enjoyed!

step six

6. Enjoy (assum­ing you enjoy this sort of thing)!