You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Tech’ category.

Yes. I’m a geek.

I’ve waited a couple years now for this particular camera to come out, because I’ve so-loved the Lumix series from the get-go. I’ve gotten so much good use out of my old FX7, and took many fantabulous pics with that little bad boy, that, in my mind, Lumix could do no wrong.

In general, the Lumix line is very underrated, and hence a darn good value (especially compared to Canon). In fact, the FX75’s big brother, the Lumix ZS7, has become the “sleeper” hit of the year. Being generally regarded as the best, most versatile compact camera without being a full-on DSLR.

But for the FX70/75 specifically, I liked the idea of having such a wide, bright lens (a Leica @ 2.2 no less), in such a small package.

Even though Panasonic is notorious for not including even basic manual features in their ultra-compacts, I have a fancy-schmancy DSLR for the really important stuff, so a micro-snapper, albeit totally “automatic”, is a good thing to have in my workflow.

The FX75 an extremely small camera (think deck of cards), with a very sturdy build. Its pre-set “modes” are nice and varied which helps offset the lack of manual control a tiny bit. It even takes darn good “flash” pictures (for weddings, parties, etc), with a better-than-normal color/flash/exposure balance, which is something even decent DSLRs have a problem with.

The image quality of the 14-megapixel Lumix DMC-FX75 is very, very good, too. As long as you’re under IS0-800, you’re going to get a low-noise, crisp image with great, accurate color. However, the built-in “sharpening” tends to look a bit wonky on small details like leaves, or other natural elements. But, weirdly, with more man-made details (architecture, bricks, cars) that same sharpening algorithm actually helps the image. So, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. In fact, I really wish they had an option to turn this “feature” off, allowing the user to apply their own “sharpening” in post via Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture.

But no. The FX70/75 insists on doing EVERYTHING for you.

The touch screen is a welcome feature too (even if you don’t use it to “take” pictures”, you can use it to assign focus, navigate menus, etc), and the visibility of the LCD in daylight really isn’t that big of a deal.

Because of that handy Touch Screen, there are very few physical buttons on the FX75. One of them is the “MODE” button which, when pressed, presents 4 on-screen choices: “Normal Picture” (a poor man’s “manual” mode); “Intelligent Auto” (which actually does a pretty good job of guessing your needs); “Scene Mode” (which takes you to a larger scene menu: sports, landscape, candlelight, etc, etc); and… “Cosmetic Mode” (which allows you to adjust face tones).

Wait. What? Really guys? You have 4 options and one of them is a “Cosmetic Mode”? Is this supposed to be “The Fashion Camera” or something? At the very least the user should be able to assign that 4th choice, either with a commonly-used “Scene Mode” or a user-created variation for an extra “Normal Picture” mode. But if that’s an option, I haven’t found it (because the 100 page manual is a bit intimidating, and a PDF). Nevertheless, dedicating such a prominent UI element to a “Cosmetic Mode” seems, well, strange.

That said, it’s not that big of a deal.

What IS a big deal is that this camera, as noted to some degree in all the reviews so far, is that the Lumix DMC FX75 has pretty major highlight and shadow problems, especially when shooting in the “normal picture” mode. If you’re outside, on a sunny-ish day, casually shooting pics, you are going to end up with a ton of snaps that are either blown-out, or way under-exposed. And, more often than not, you’ll have both problems in one picture. Literally white-white highlights AND black-black shadows. It’s really sad, actually.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(NOTE: these 3 images are shown in their original capture state first, and then as “adjusted”: my valiant attempt to eek-down the highlights and nudge-up shadows in post. As you can see, the progress even on these non-extreme examples was minimal, at best.)

Yes: all cameras have their pluses and minuses. But this little camera has SO much going for it that these very basic exposure issues are a huge let-down. Frankly, this is an issue that feels very “2001” in terms of technical performance. The FX75 has all these wonderfully modern bells and whistles, but when you check out your pictures of that family picnic, you’ll find yourself shaking your head and asking “jeesh…really?”.

The FX75 does provide an “intelligent exposure” option, which helps this dilemma a bit, but if you have that option turned on it overrides your ISO preferences even in “normal picture” mode. So all of a sudden you may get stuck with an ISO-1600 picture (which is extremely noisy) taken in the daytime (which is crazy).

Overall, it’s almost as if they paid so much attention to the glitter and zaz of the FX75 that they glossed over the basics: ie., capturing a properly-exposed image.

They could’ve included an HDR or RAW option so at least you’d have some room to play on the back end. But, sadly, no. You’re stuck with more than an expectable number of badly exposed JPGs.

I don’t know if something like a “firmware upgrade” can fix this problem, but I certainly hope so. Because if they can find a way to fix this, they’ll have one of, if not THE best camera in its class. If not, I’ll probably have to try and sell this (quick, before word gets out!), and buy another mini-snapper. And that’s a real shame.

I’m sorry Lumix. I’m your biggest fan. But, as-is, the DMC FX75 (FX70) is a real heart breaker.

HERE ARE SOME OTHER (MORE TECHNICAL, AND GREAT) REVIEWS OF THE PANASONIC LUMIC DMC-FX75 (FX70)

Steve’s Digicams
Photography Blog
Digital Camera Review
PC World
Squidoo
Pocket Lint

Well, my “theory” that only the Lacie “multiple” disk external drives had problems has finally gone up in smoke.

My single-disk 250 finally crapped out on me. I was using it as the Time Machine for my MacBook, and the other day it started acting wonky. So today I tried to erase it, to no avail.

It is dead.

Seriously. Is there a lawyer out there who wants to make a zillion dollars on a class-action lawsuit?

FFFFffffffffffttttt!

FFFFffffffffffttttt!

FFFFFFffffffffffffftttttttttttt!

That’s the sound that my “replacement” 2TB drive –Lacie so graciously gave me after my drive debacle last year– is now making, meaning it’s cheap power supply can no longer spin the disks. Obviously, it’s days are numbered.

Thank GOD I had everything double-backed-up onto my spiffy new 2TB MyBook.

So, if you weren’t paying attention before, Lacie makes crappy products. Especially the “larger” drives. Avoid them at all cost.

Seriously.

Like many if not most New Yorkers I tend to breeze through the city “in the zone”.

Laser-focused on finding the path of least resistance to my destination.

Blocking out the city itself with shades on my face.

Deadening it’s uglier sounds via my trusty little white iPod noise-canceling headphones, tucked firmly in my ears.

So why, out of all the people to choose from, do tourists constantly choose ME to ask directions from?

Yanked from my zen-zone by a tap on the shoulder, I’ll turn to see an unfamiliar face, earnestly mouthing… something… important?

I deliberately remove one of my earphones, and say “wha?”

What I don’t say is “…have you NEVER seen an iPod ad? With the dark silhouette with the stark white IV infusing it with all-consuming audio loveliness?”

It’s all good. I don’t mind. And I always help.

But, why me?

Spaces is one of the coolest features of Leopard. In theory.

The way it works is you can create a virtual “grid” where you have several, identical “desktops” with different programs “assigned” to each.

You can either assign them permanently, or simply drag them between the Spaces as you see fit.

For instance, you can have the Web and iTunes in Space #1.
And when you want to do some Flash, or Photoshop just switch to, say, Space #2.
Or, “Word processing and presentations”? Jump to Space #3.
Ripping a DVD? Head on over to Space #5.

And so on. It makes a ton of sense. It’s a beautifully simple concept.
The problem is it doesn’t really work.

First of all, the major 3rd party apps Adobe’s CS3, and Microsoft’s Office 2008 (which I already addressed, here) simply don’t “play” well with Spaces. Nor do many others.

What happens is when you switch back and forth betweenst Spaces the apps get all wiggy. Their windows get mixed up, wonky, and greyed-out. Log-in screens and palettes get scattered between the Spaces, too. And you can’t get them back together again without restarting the program(s).

And, surprisingly, Apple’s own apps aren’t much better.
The main menu bar at the top of the screen often says “Safari”, which is in space #1, when you’re in Space #4 using FontBook.

And God help you if you like to use any of OSX’s other awesome features, like Expose, or the standard “TAB” to switch between apps, or “H” to “hide” apps… it gets even dicier.

Sometimes apps disappear completely.

Of course the larger problem here is Apple’s trademark “no comment”. Because although both Microsoft and Adobe have acknowledged the issue, they have both pointed their fingers squarely at Spaces, and Apple.

Not much of a surprise.

But Apple needs to step up here.

Why? Because it’s their operating system. And they have a duty to make sure it not only does what they say it does, but also play well with at LEAST the other big dogs in the park.

After all, isn’t that what separates them from Windows?

They need to acknowledge the issue exists, pronto, and then fix it on their end. Again, pronto.
And then help the Devs fix it on their end.

Yesterday.

Regardless of who’s fault it is, the fact remains that Spaces doesn’t work as-advertised. Despite several updates of Leopard, and both CS3 and Office 2008.

And message boards across teh internets are strewn with questions upon questions about these exact issues. All with ZERO answers.

Everyone’s repeatedly hoping that the “next update” will fix this. Finger’s crossed.
But help never comes.

Thousands and thousands of loyal customers are simply “dealing with it”.

This is unacceptable. Buts (surprise) if it got more press… it will get fixed.

I’m doing my part. Now for MacWorld, Mac Addict, Computerworld, Cnet, etc, et all.

Guys?

-e

I’m writing this post in the brand-new-ish Microsoft Word 2008. But just barely.

The good news is Microsoft really kicked some ass with Office 2008, and made it better (mostly), sleeker, and “Mac”-ier. And most of the reviews out there say essentially that.

The only problem is that Word (the only program of the bunch I use every day) doesn’t work with Mac’s “Spaces” (a feature I use every minute).

It’s so bad it essentially renders Word 2008 unusable.

When you switch Spaces, you “take” a part of Word with you into the other Spaces; be it the main window, the formatting palette, or the menu bar. And when you click on any of these, you get zoomed back to another space, with another piece. And try-as-you-might, you can’t seem to get them back together again.

Like Humpty-Dumpty.

This is too bad, because almost everything else about Office 2008 is hat’s-off to M$oft. And 6th sense about these things tells me that the ball is in their court on this one.

Achem?

Instead of calling Apple Computer’s Technical support number:

1-800-275-2273

I mistakenly dialed:

1-800-278-2273

…and, apparently, there are “Hot and Horny Singles” just waiting to take my call. At first I thought it was a new Apple marketing campaign. But, fortunately (or, unfortunately?) that was not the case.

LOL.

e

Lots going on in the consumer world… we’re preparing action items concerning our 3 favorites here, due out in the next couple of weeks:

“Lacie, redux”

“T-Mobile, OMG!”

And, last but not least, a new ongoing series entitled:

“The MTA owes me some muthafucking money!”

Or, some other title that *might* be more fit for consumption 😉

Stay tuned, and thanks for the hits.

e

A month ago, after way too much research, I finally plunked for the Dell 2408WFP SuperSharp (and super sexy) LCD monitor. But since it’s one of these newfangled “wide gamut” monitors, I realized I couldn’t get by with the ‘ol Apple “sysprefs” calibrations I’ve been doing for years. And since I need to “soft proof” ads and photos for a living… I realized I needed a real calibration tool.

So, after a lot more research I settled on the X-Rite “Eye-One Display 2”. Aka “the best mid-range calibrator with the worst name.” And, well, I bought it.

http://www.xrite.com/product_overview.aspx?ID=788

$299 retail. And here’s the skinny.

When you first open the box, out comes the main unit, which is dangle “tool” that looks like a computer mouse. How it works is you hang that over your screen, and the software sends information to the screen. The donglemouse thing then reads that information, and sends feedback about the monitor back to the software. And viola! A perfect calibration.

Sounds great, right? Well. Not so fast.

Aside from the danglemouse, a weight for the cord (to help secure it) and a plastic “rest/ambient light detector” there is almost ZERO documentation.

No manual. No bullet points. No nothing.

The only bit of information you get is a “Quick Start” Guide, which is just a folded piece of paper that opens to about 10 panels. 4 of which are filled with legal mumbo. And each of the remaining panels supposedly giving you a “step” (in 10 languages at the same time, no less). Overall it’s very, very basic. Weirdly basic, actually. And not very helpful.

So then you go to plug in the dongle mouse, and there’s a warning on it: “INSTALL SOFTWARE BEFORE PLUGGING IN DONGLEMOUSE!”

Wait. It didn’t say anything about that in the comprehensive quickstart guide!

So I put the CD in my computer, and I noticed right away there are some very “OS9”-looking icons in the menu, which is never a good sign. But I soldiered on.

The CD contained a bunch of folders; way, way too many folders for any install disk. And among them I noticed there were some “tutorials”, so I tucked my pride behind my ear and opened the first tutorial. And, well, it was okay. Aside from the announcer pronouncing random words badly, and loudly, the whole calibration process seemed simple enough. The important thing being it gave me more information than the quickstart guide.

After the tutorial was finished I was still left with a jumble of files and folders on the CD. And not knowing which I should click, or what to install, I first tried dragging the icon called “EyeOne” onto the desktop, simply because it was the only “professional-looking” icon of the bunch. But when I double-clicked it, it showed an antiquated-looking menu screen with “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it. And when I clicked each of them, it didn’t do anything.

So, I opened the folder on the CD called “installers”, and found the same names as on the zombie program, plus one folder entitled “Pantone”. So I painstakingly installed each of these from this folder. Each one seeming to use a different installer program. Seriously, really?

Of course I had NO idea what each of these do. Or did. What the hell is “Match”? Is that where I match my monitor to something else? Is “Share” a utility that allows me to give and receive calibrations, somehow? And what is “Diagnostics”? How is it different from “Match”? Of course, I know what “Pantone” is, but is it really a necessary install? Again, there was ZERO information on what these things are, and I really, really hate installing unnecessary software, especially bloatware onto my computer. But I felt I had no choice here. I wanted this thing to work. I NEEDed it to work, and work well. So I installed everything… and to this day I have no idea what I installed. Or changed. Or, more importantly, if I screwed anything up on my system.

Okay. So everything was installed, I think (?), and I clicked on “Diagnostics” first, because my gut told me that that was the main calibration program.

My gut was wrong.

Apparently “diagnostics” is a program that is supposed to tell me if my monitor “is okay”. Whatever that means (again, zero documentation).

I clicked “start” and immediately it chastised me for not having my mouse dongle plugged in. So I quickly plugged it in, and it asked me to put it on a “neutral surface”. I remembered the ancient-looking tutorial told me something about a “black” surface, so I put it on the little bit of the box that was black. I have no idea if that was the right thing, or not. Oh well. Pressing on.

And… well… it froze.

Somewhere between checking the output of something, and the black level of something else, it completely locked up my system.

So after a generous 10 minutes of le beachball du spinno, I had to force-quit.

I relaunched, and again, right in the middle of measuring the “black” swatch, it froze.

I restarted. Tried again. And it froze. Again.

Oh well. Maybe I didn’t need that part of the program? I mean, on the whole, based on the price tag, that’s a $98 program right there that doesn’t work. So, thanks for that.

Moving on.

At this point I looked into my Applications folder, where everything is usually placed, and, as I guessed, there it was… an “Eye-One” folder. And in there was a program called “Calibration”. Aha! I opened it up, and it looked just like the program they used the old-school tutorial movie.

I let out a sigh of relief, and quickly wiped the breath fog off my new monitor.

I should point out here that I *still* don’t know what that other program was, or what the “Match” “Share” and “Diagnostics” buttons on it did. Well, we know that it didn’t work. But I digress…

Turns out the main calibration program is called “Eye-One Match” (aha! …wha?), and it gives you a simple window that offers “easy” and “advanced” settings, and there are, surprisingly, instructions on the top right of the window that you can access by clicking the little buttons. It tells you what you’re supposed to be doing, and even clarifies some terminology in case you need it. A novel concept.

I did an “easy” calibration first, and it took almost no time at all. However, the end result was a bit too dark, and I realized that, for my monitor at least, there were still some pretty heavy brightness/contrast settings to mutz with, and even some RGB sliders that pack quite a wallup. So I decided to dive right into “advanced” mode.

To my surprise, even that went swimmingly. In a nutshell, all you have to do is let the donglemouse do it’s measurements and give you the results, then you tweak your monitor’s settings, and then let donglemouse do a re-measurement. And repeat.

This worked very well for “manual” RGB, which I ducked to 75% for all of them initially, so I’d have room to move.

And, well, I ended up with a damn gorgeous calibration! It was significantly “deeper” in saturation than my previous, “by eye” calibration. But, unfortunately, the “contrast” portion of the calibration didn’t work at all. It kept telling me that it was 100% spot-on, even though I would wildy swing the contrast values back and forth. Obviously it was broken, which sucks. But I like to set the contrast where I like it to “look” anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. But the fact that it simply didn’t work is pretty crappy. Also, there was no “brightness” adjustment phase, even thought the tutorial, and the program itself, promised there would be one. Again, not the end of the world because I just set the brightness (like contrast) on my monitor to levels I like, which I did this time and then had the Eye-One concentrate on the RGBs.

Well, there you go. A damn convoluted review of a necessary, but poorly executed calibration device. Did I get the calibration I needed? Yes. But the rub here is that X-Rite just didn’t do their powerful little “donglemouse that could” justice. The documentation is spotty at best, completely confusing, and otherwise non-existant. And, perhaps more importantly, the software is woefully out of date and seriously flawed. It’s almost as if the same guys who built the hardware also designed the software and wrote instructions. Which we all know is never a good idea.

Honestly I feel like I’ve gotten about $50 worth of my $200+ spent on the Eye-One Display-2. And that sucks, because I really, really wanted to like thing.

THE RESULTS:

YAY:
It does what it says it does. It gives you a decent calibration quickly (ala “easy” mode), or a great calibration semi-quickly (via “advanced” mode). Not a lot of parts to keep track of. Solid build.

BOO:
Uninspired presentation. Absolutely horrible documentation. Embarassingly out-of-date, confused, and crippled software.

GESTALT:
Not worth the money. But these problems could be easily fixed by manufacturer, and then it would be well-worth it.

To be honest, I didn’t think I wanted TIVO until I got TIVO.

Or, to be specific, until i got Time Warner Cable’s DVR, which is built into my cable box. But when I got it, I was instantly hooked. It’s everything they said it would be, and more. And although I don’t tape a ton of shows, the ones I do record are near, and dear to my heart.

Did I just say tape? I did.

Anyway, for some reason, this weekend, while I was away, my Time Warner DVD failed miserably to record “Real Time With Bill Maher”, “SNL”, and “At The Movies With Ebert And Roper”.

Wuh?

So I go online… and there’s not much besides some “tips” that are written for morons ala “what’s DVR?”. So I clicked on the “reach us via our ‘online form’” link… which is deader than a virtual doornail:

TimeWarnerCable: Contact Us!

So I call.

Already I’m WAY past my time quotient for dealing with this mess. And I’m on hold for almost ever.

And then… I get a dial tone!

I was cut off!

So I called again, and climbed my way through the phone tree only to get cut off yet again.

Kill.

The problem here is not that I missed my precious shows, and that I cried like a little girl. The problem here is that Time Warner NY has such atrocious customer service that I don’t even know HOW to go about reporting this, or somehow asking for their help in fixing it.

And that’s one of the more important aspects of good customer service, isn’t it? When something goes wrong, in this order you:

1) Make yourself obviously available
2) Etc

So…I must ask, ever so nicely:

Time Warner New York? WTF?