Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Free concert in LA this weekend, bring your Apple II

Free concert in LA this weekend, bring your Apple II

by Richard Lawler, engadget.com
June 22nd 2011 9:10 AM

, , Following the only logical path one can take after building a working 15x scale Atari joystick, Jason Torchinsky is pulling together all the Apple IIs that can be had for a quick concert. Those not already entranced by chiptunes will want to give LA neighborhood art space Machine Project a wide berth on Saturday, where participants will use a 16 step sequencer to get something like music out of the system's timer circuit. Those interested in checking it out can check the source link for details, but if you actually have an Apple II laying around (and aren't in the middle of a game of Oregon Trail, that's serious business) you'll want to show up around 6 p.m. to get things arranged.

Original Page: http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/22/free-concert-in-la-this-weekend-bring-your-apple-ii/

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Finding Your Camera Lens Sweet Spot — Doug Niedermiller Photography

Finding Your Camera Lens Sweet Spot

by Doug Niedermiller, dougniedermillerphotography.com
January 8th 2010

So you are looking for a new camera lens or you went out and bought a brand new D-SLR digital camera with the kit lens. Now you want to produce 11 x 14 or 16 x20 or larger sharp prints.  You will need a good tripod and know your camera lens sweet spot. The lens sweet spot is the aperture or F-stop setting which produces sharpest image possible.

The lens sweet spot is determined by which F-stop or aperture to get the sharpest image. All lenses have a sweet spot.  What we are going to determine is what aperture will produce the sharpest image.  A simple rule of thumb is to take the widest aperture and stop it down 2 full f stops or 2 full aperture values ( see chart below).  Let’s say you have a lens with a maximum F-stop of F4.  That would make the sweet spot of your lens about F8.  The problem is this may not be the exact sweet spot for your particular lens. The only way to really know is to test the lens for yourself or you may find it in a lens review article in one of the many photography magazines.  The problem is that your lens may not have been tested or at least may not have identified the sweet spot of your lens.

Full F-stop Chart

Your lens may have other F-stops not listed on this chart above.

The chart above gives the corresponding aperture value to F-stop.  As each aperture value increases it cuts the light in half.  As each aperture values decreases it doubles the light.

So let’s test the lens.  The first thing I did was find a test pattern chart to test the lens.  I found one at http://www.graphics.cornell.edu/~westin/misc/ISO_12233-reschart.pdf You can print it right from the site or downloaded it.  Once downloaded you can print the test chart in the best quality your printer will allow you to print.   This is what you will need to run this test: your camera and lens; a sturdy tripod; a remote cable release; a board to mount the test chart on; the test chart.

Step 1. Attach the chart on the board with tape so that the chart will not move if there is any wind.

Step 2.  Find a bright spot outside and set the board with the chart in the sun.

Step 3.  Install your camera on a tripod.

Step 4.  Select the camera to aperture priority.

Step 5.  Focus your camera on the chart.

Test Chart Location Below

Next, we’ll start with full open.  Let’s say at f5.6 and shoot your first picture.  Next we’ll shoot a photo at each f-stop, making note of each photo’s f-stop so that when you import them you will know which F-stop corresponds to each photograph.  Be sure to use your remote shutter release cable and don’t move the camera through the whole process.  Please note  that any camera shake or movement will cause an inaccurate test.

After you finish, take your memory card and import into your favorite photo editing software.  (I use Adobe Lightroom 2.)  Open the photos in your editor and set the  magnification to one to one.  Use a side by side compare function if available.  Now, carefully inspect and compare each photograph to see which one is the sharpest.  Once you have determined which photo is the sharpest you have found your lens F-stop sweet spot.

If you are using a zoom lens you may want to repeat these steps for several focal lengths.  Let’s say you’re using a 70 to 200 mm lens.  First use 70mm then 130mm then 200mm. This will let you find the best F-stop for the sharpest picture at all F-stops.

The chart below shows the tests results I found with the lenses I have.


One thing that I found when performing these tests is the better the lens quality the harder it is to find the exact sweet spot. These lenses generally had between two and three F-stops with the best sharpness. With some less expensive lens I found it easy to find a single F-stop sweet spot. But it is possible with higher end consumer lenses with ED glass (extra low distortion glass) you can get very sharp images.

Now you know what your lens sweet spot is.  Even if you have a less expensive lens, by using this knowledge, you will be able to get very sharp photographs with most lenses.  But, we do live in the real world.  Sometimes, because of low light conditions, or the need to adjust the depth of field, we may have to adjust our F-stop to our needs.  So, if the situation is right to use the sweet spot of your lens,  you will find you will get the sharpest pictures possible with your lens.

The Teleconverter

I was not happy with the test results on the Nikon TC-20E II 2X Teleconverter.   I have read other reviews of the Nikon brand Teleconverter that come to same conclusion. They also revealed that the Nikon TC-17E II 1.7x and Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x both had superior performance over the TC-20E II 2X Teleconverter.

If you are in the market for a new lens or camera, buy the best lens you can afford.  In my opinion, the lens is more important than the camera.  Consider this the lens has a life cycle of about 10 or more years and because the camera technology changes so fast, the camera’s life cycle is only 2 to 5 years.

So do your homework before you buy any camera, lens or teleconverter.

Please share your questions or comments below.

Happy sharp shooting.

Doug Niedermiller

Original Page: http://dougniedermillerphotography.com/2010/01/08/finding-your-camera-lens-sweet-spot/

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NCC shores up anti-goose efforts

NCC shores up anti-goose efforts

cbc.ca | Jun 17th 2011 8:21 PM

Beginning of Story Content

The war on geese, and their droppings, in Ottawa's urban parks has moved to the beaches.

Prompted by complaints from the public and concerns about health, the National Capital Commission began its campaign to curtail the clamorous waterfowl and their ubiquitous excrement in 2009, and has seen a measure of success on its riverside properties.

"We have noticed quite a drop in the numbers," said Mario Fournier, the NCC’s manager of urban lands. "I would say close to 50 per cent."

Techniques ranged from installing fences to block the birds’ access from the river to parks, to planting shrubs and letting the grass grow longer so the birds fear approaching predators, even if there aren't any. Also crucial was posting signs asking people not to feed the animals.

"This year the geese has less gosling, less youth. So this means the future generations will maybe be attracted to go elsewhere," Fournier said.

The commission is hoping its success along the Ottawa River Parkway can be matched at Gatineau Park, where the avian invasion has spread to the beaches.

Fournier said the NCC is introducing the same measures in the park, and will be cleaning excrement daily from the grass. Each goose produces an average of a kilogram of waste a day.

End of Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Original Page: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2011/06/17/ottawa-ncc-geese-parks.html

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Guide to Grilling: Why You Should Really Own a Smoker

Guide to Grilling: Why You Should Really Own a Smoker

by Joshua Bousel, feeds.seriouseats.com
May 20th 2011 3:15 PM

Although we've compiled some great tips on how to succeed in kettle smoking, after using my grill for years to smoke meat low-and-slow, I have to say that it wasn't until I graduated to a smoker that I started creating truly worthy barbecue.

So what's the difference, and why do you need a smoker? Here's a breakdown between two racks of baby back ribs, one done on the smoker, one on the grill, on the same day, using the same recipe.


The one source of frustration for me when smoking on a kettle is temperature control. A kettle grill needs constant hand-holding, with checks on the temperature almost every 15 minutes to make sure the fire is still burning and running low. In my early, naive years, I was in awe of the pitmasters who could reign in a consistent temperature, showing a true skill in the art of being master of the flames.

Then I bought smoker.

The first time I fired that baby up, she wasn't as steady as she is now after years of smoking, but I habitually checked the temperature every 15 minutes and found that it was staying within a 5 to 10 degree range up or down and required no extra work. I began to trust and feel out my smoker, and am at the point now where I can check it relatively infrequently (about every hour), and feel good about firing it up, adding in a brisket, and hitting the sack if I'm doing an overnight cook—that's pretty impossible with a grill.

As you can see from the graph above, both the smoker and kettle took about the same time to get to the temperature. Once there, the smoker held fairly steady with no additional maintenance besides stirring the coals once. The kettle's temperature, on the other hand, varied widely. I was able to keep it in a good smoking range between 225 and 275°F, though, with one exception (when I opened the air vent and walked away for too long). This required constant fussing with the air vents and adding extra coals to the fire twice while cooking.


For each rack of ribs, I used the same amount of smoking wood—three chunks of pecan and three chunks of apple. The results between the two devices were pretty stark.

Not an absolute measure of smoke penetration, but the smoke ring—a pink ring created at the surface of the meat formed when nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion mixes with the natural moisture in the meat and forms nitric acid—was way more defined on the ribs done in the smoker. The kettle ribs had a much lighter smoke ring, and tasted side-by-side, weren't nearly as packed with smoky flavor.

Of course, this is an easily solvable problem in a kettle—just add more wood. Both in the kettle and smoker, finding the right amount of smoke is a game of trial and error, but what this test does show is that smoke is absorbed to a greater extent in the device whose main purpose is to deliver smoke to the food.

The Rib Results

When it comes down to it, As I mentioned before, it wasn't until I got a smoker that I started producing the highest quality barbecue. These ribs brought back memories of the old days next to the grill when the racks just weren't up to snuff.

The ribs from the kettle were good—the meat was juicy, smokey, and fairly tender. I had some friends over to help me eat through the racks. "These are totally serviceable," said one of them about the kettle-done ribs. Now I don't know about you, but "serviceable" doesn't cut it for my barbecue—I want greatness, and the smoker-done ribs earned that title.

They're juicy, smokey, and tender, but to a much greater degree. It was that perfect level of tenderness where the meat easily pulls off the bone then melts in your mouth, and fills it with the smoky flavors. The rub creates an excellent bark too. These ribs were the food of the gods, as proven by how fast they flew off the plate.

OK, I'm Convinced, What Type of Smoker Should I Buy?

I'm happy to see you're ready to shop for a smoker already! The world of smokers gets even trickier than grills, though, with many types out there made by a whole host of companies. That'd really require a separate post to cover all that territory.

I've been satisfied with my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, which comes in 18.5" and 22.5" models. This water smoker uses charcoal as its main fuel source and has a devout following like none other.

Another popular option is a ceramic cooker, or Kamado, like the Big Green Egg. These heavy beasts will set you back a pretty penny, but excel in both high heat grilling and low-and-slow barbecue due to their thick, ceramic walls. The heat retention also means the coals go longer than in the Weber Smokey Mountain.

You also have all sorts of gas and electric smokers, both of which bring "set-it-and-forget-it" into the realm of barbecue by using heat sources that remain consistent throughout long cooks (although a change of a gas cylinder could be needed). Many of these models offer more cooking area than their charcoal counterparts.

It also seems worth pointing out that inexpensive offset smokers don't look like a good option, from what I've heard. While the cheaper pricetag can make them sound more attractive, the temperature is hard to control and makes for uneven heat in the cooking chamber.

If you're still reading this and don't own a smoker yet, what are you waiting for!??! Memorial Day is just around the corner.

About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.

Tags: barbecue, grilling, Memorial Day, smokers

Original Page: http://feeds.seriouseats.com/~r/seriouseatsfeaturesvideos/~3/MUC7gMZtRzw/guide-to-grilling-why-you-should-really-own-a-smoker.html

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5 Tips For Grilling A Better Burger

5 Tips For Grilling A Better Burger

by Leslie Kelly, aldenteblog.com
May 20th 2011

A perfect sunshine-y day inspired me to fire up the grill yesterday evening for the first time this season. Actually, the seed was planted in the morning when I got a craving for potato salad. And what goes better with spuds mixed with mayo, mustard, pickles and onions -- the not-so-secret family recipe -- than a big burger?

So, what's the trick to making a super juicy burger at home? The kind you find at upscale restaurants.

A couple of years ago, I spent some time working in kitchens and I learned a few hundred things. I witnessed the making of the best burger I've ever tasted, a thick patty that the cooks made cross-hatch slashes in. They did that to keep the ground beef from expanding as it cooked. (Tip No. 1!)

Before cooking, though, let's prep. Tip 2: I like to go to a butcher who grinds their own beef. If I have the time, I might even grind my own, feeding chuck roast into my Kitchen Aid grinder. I lean toward lean ground beef, not extra lean. 

Most people put all sorts of effort into topping burgers, but I believe in focusing on the flavor of the meat. So, some seasoning is in order. In goes salt and pepper, some chopped garlic, a splash of olive oil. One of my favorite burgers of all time includes crispy bacon bits mixed into the meat. (Tip No. 3!)

After patting out the patties, pop them in the freezer for an hour or so. This tip (No. 4), which I picked up while working at a pub, helps the patties hold their shape.

Finally, for Tip 5, when cooking, never press down on the meat with a spatula. You can't have a juicy burger if you squeeze the juice out of your burger.

OK, one last bonus tip: For an extra gooey finish, use shredded cheese on top! I worked in one restaurant where they combined shredded sharp cheddar with butter. A totally decadent treat.

And here's my sister's potato salad recipe to serve alongside those juicy burgers!

Sissy's Potato Salad

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes

1 cup mayo, preferably homemade

1/4 cup Dijon-style mustard

1 cup dill pickles, chopped

1 cup sweet white or red onion, chopped

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

splash pickle juice

salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients and let sit for at least a few hours. It's even better the next day.

-- Leslie Kelly

Original Page: http://www.aldenteblog.com/2011/05/5-tips-for-grilling-a-better-burger.html

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

iCloud’s the Limit: How iOS 5, Lion Push Apple’s Lock-In Strategy

Gadget Lab

by Brian X. Chen, wired.com
June 8th 2011

Apple CEO Steve Jobs set off a bomb in Silicon Valley on Monday, and companies all over the world are still assessing the damage.

The new features in iOS 5, Mac OS X Lion and iCloud that Jobs introduced at the Worldwide Developers Conference affect a long list of companies big and small. Some are direct competitors of Apple, but many come from the legions of iOS developers whose apps have helped make the iPhone and iPad popular.

To start with the giants:

  • The iOS 5 Notifications Center is a direct response to Google’s superior (for now) Android notifications system.
  • The iOS 5 systemwide Twitter integration flips a middle finger at Microsoft’s Facebook-integrated Windows Phone 7 platform.
  • Apple’s internet-based iMessage messaging client is a copycat of RIM’s BlackBerry messaging client, and it should inspire millions of iPhone customers to downgrade their text-messaging plans when iOS 5 lands this fall. That will put a dent in carrier profits.

(Let’s not even speculate about the death of SMS from iMessage.)

As for small startups:

  • The “Read Later” functionality baked into the Safari browser for iOS 5 and Lion seems to render the popular Instapaper app unnecessary. Creator Marco Arment, however — at least for public consumption — is keeping up a brave front that he is “tentatively optimistic” that the new feature “will improve sales dramatically.”
  • The upgraded Mail app included with OS X Lion (a $30 operating system upgrade) makes the $10 Sparrow mail app look like a raw deal.
  • And iOS 5’s photo- and document-sharing features, combined with 5 gigabytes of free online storage offered through iCloud, may compel many Dropbox customers to cancel their subscriptions, or downgrade their storage options.

That’s just a few.

“It was like a forest fire cleaning out the brush,” said Phillip Ryu, principal at Tap Tap Tap, developer of the bestselling image-editing app Camera+ for iPhone. It’s worth noting, coincidentally, that Apple’s next iPhone update will also include a built-in photo editor, which competes with the likes of Camera+, too.

Now, here’s why iCloud, iOS 5 and Lion pack such a deadly punch against so many companies: Together, they strengthen Apple’s lock-in strategy with vertical integration. Many consider Apple to be the most vertically integrated company in the world: All Apple hardware and software are designed in-house, and Apple also runs its own digital content store, iTunes, along with the App Store and iBooks store.

The new feature set in iOS 5, iCloud and Lion tightens Apple’s vertical integration of its software ecosystem by amplifying its “lock-in” goal. The vast majority of the new iCloud tools introduced Monday are exclusively for Apple customers, designed to bridge the iOS and Mac operating systems to make the experience more seamless, convenient and irresistible than ever.

The idea behind this strategy is: If you’re an iPhone customer today, how can you resist buying a Mac or an iPad now, and why would you buy a Windows PC or an Android device? And if you’re already plugged into Apple’s “cloud” ecosystem, why use a cross-platform solution like Dropbox or Google Docs to store your media, when the Apple-only experience is bound to be more optimized for you?

Apple’s software news this week was designed to make people feel like crap if they aren’t already Apple customers. If you use Apple’s Pages word processor, your documents sync with Pages on the Mac, iPad and iPhone.

When you create a calendar event on your Mac, that event automatically appears on your iPhone calendar, too. You can also share the event with another Apple device.

If you snap a picture with your iPhone, the PhotoStream feature pushes the photo to iCloud and syncs with the photo folder on your Mac, Apple TV and iPad. (There’s a photo folder for Windows PCs that will work for this, too, but it looks considerably less polished than the Apple PhotoStream.)

And Apple’s lock-in strategy works like this, too: If a lot of your friends have iPhones or iPads and you have neither, you’d feel left out. With iOS 5, they’ll all be able to message each other for free with the iMessage app rather than the traditional rip-off SMS plan offered by Verizon and AT&T. So if you’re lured in, it’d be hard to give up an iPhone or iPad for a competing product, because you’d be leaving an entire network of iMessage chat contacts.

Google can only dream that its own “lock-in” were this tight. It’s halfway there: Google Docs, mail and calendar work well on Android devices. But Android still suffers from the recurring issue of hardware fragmentation. You can’t even be guaranteed to have the same version of Android on one Google-powered handset versus another, much less an Android Honeycomb tablet, nor can you be assured that the apps you’ve downloaded work the same on every Android device.

(Do I even need to bring up Google TV? Why even bother at this point.)

Apple said its big push Monday was “the cloud,” as in, snipping the cord and going truly wireless. But the real story was “lock-in.” Who would ever leave the Apple universe now? It’s up to Apple’s rivals now to find a solid opportunity here to compete with Steve Jobs’ widget.

See Also:

Original Page: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/06/apple-icloud-lion-ios5/

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Miro: Just Another iTunes Wannabe?

Miro: Just Another iTunes Wannabe?

by Conor O'Driscoll, mac.appstorm.net
June 8th 2011

iTunes. You can’t live with it, and yet you can’t live without it. Sure, it does its job, but there are a whole lot of features which are unnecessary, and necessary features which haven’t been implemented. It has Ping, a social network used by about 7 people, but no support for AVI videos, a video format loved by millions. Unfortunately for us, there aren’t many decent alternatives.

Miro 4 was released recently, and although Miro was always an iTunes competitor, version 4 has really brought it into its own. The 100% free and open source media library does all of the things you want iTunes to do, and more. But is it worth abandoning iTunes for? Read on to find out.

Getting Started

Miro is not available from the App Store, so you’ll have to download the DMG from their website. At 40MB, half the size of iTunes, it won’t take hours to download. Installation is done by a process we’re all-too-familiar with – simply dragging the app into the Applications folder.

When you first open the app, it’ll ask a few questions to help you make the most of Miro. The first is the language you want Miro to be in. There is a huge list of available languages, but not all of them are fully translated (just Spanish and German at the time of writing), however many more are well on their way. Anyone can volunteer to translate Miro and help make the software as accessible as possible.

You can also quickly import iTunes media and/or all media on your computer, or simply media in a certain folder. This is a handy way of quickly gathering media so you haven’t got to import everything from scratch. That said, the importing process will take a while, especially if you have a large library.


What instantly strikes you about Miro is its beautiful interface – Every button is pixel perfect and looks wonderful. Designed by Morgan Allan Knutson, it’s obvious that he put a whole lot of time and effort into its design.

Unfortunately, for me, whilst its aesthetics are amazing, the usability of the interface is a little lacking. It would appear that Miro has gone so far out of its way to not be an iTunes clone that it has ignored the good elements of iTunes. For example, in Miro, all of the controls are along the bottom. Users are used to toolbars and buttons being up the top of the window, so this decision doesn’t feel right.


Miro handles your music relatively well – you can play it, and pause it, which is certainly a start. I’m afraid that I’ll have to compare Miro to iTunes most of the time, as that is what most people use. And, really, it just doesn’t compare. iTunes has been handling music all its life, so by now, it really is quite good at it. To me, it feels like Miro has added music functionality at the last minute, and it really hasn’t had time to think about what really makes a great music library.

One major issue of mine is the lack of view options for your music. You can either see your music in a full list with all its details, or in a completely useless view where you see each song with artwork and a few details, with only 4 songs fitting into the window. What’s really missing is the ability to view thumbnails of albums, or at least artists, like iTunes. Until that happens, there is no way I can use the music feature.


This is really where you feel Miro developers put all their effort into. It doesn’t really do anything iTunes doesn’t, except for the fact that it can handle most codecs you throw at it. And if it can’t, Miro Video Converter features are bundled in, so you can convert videos within Miro to make them playable.

Unfortunately, there is one feature which, for me, makes Miro defunct for video is a lack of external remote support. I like to watch movies from a bit of a distance, and using my Apple remote is a must when doing so. That said, you have the option to open a video in QuickTime directly from Miro, but to me, that’s not very different to using Finder.

If MPlayerX managed to incorporate remote functionality, it must be possible, and I hope Miro developers will introduce the feature soon. Until then, I’m sticking to Finder and QuickTime for video.



Miro has done what iTunes neglected to and brought in a lot of online functionality – It has a built-in torrent client (for legal torrents, of course), and links to sites with legal torrents such as YouTorrent and ClearBits. You can add any torrent source you wish to – It certainly is a nice feature to be able to download a file and have it straight in your library.

Miro has also got built in browser functionality, with a few sections which essentially act as site-specific browsers – YouTube, Hulu, and PBS, along with the afore-mentioned YouTorrent and ClearBits.

You can add any URL you want as a source, so in that way, acts a little like Fluid, only that all the SSBs are kept under one app.

The only problem is that there isn’t an address bar, so if you find something and want to send someone a link, you’ll have to open it up in the browser first.


Just as iTunes has the much-loved iTunes store, and the App Store, Miro has incorporated support for Amazon’s MP3 store, the Amazon Android Store, and the Google Android Store. With Miro’s support for Android syncing, these are great features.

Personally, I haven’t found any way in which Amazon’s MP3 store betters the iTunes store (unless you count Lady Gaga’s Born This Way for $0.99), but it is certainly a feature which nowadays every media library should have.


I want to love Miro. I really do. It is a wonderful idea in theory – developed by volunteers, designed by volunteers, translated by volunteers, and distributed completely for free. But do I love it? Not quite.

Despite its aesthetic goodness and excellent online functionality, it falls down in a few vital areas which make it unusable as a media library, for me at least. All it needs is a few more viewing options and support for the Apple remote and I’d rate it much higher. The devil really is in the details.

Original Page: http://mac.appstorm.net/reviews/music-reviews/miro-just-another-itunes-wannabe/

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