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    Camera Lust: the Pentax K-01 and the Fuji X-Pro1


    2012 - 02.04

    Pentax is blowing up the interwebs this week with news of their newest sweet photo machine, the K-01. New sweet photo machines are a dime-a-dozen, but what makes this one interesting is that it’s the first mirrorless interchangable lens camera (we’re going to stick with the acronym MILC here) that actually shares a lens mount with their normal SLRs, meaning you can attach any of your existing K-mount lenses right on to this baby. Now that’s progress! No need to repurchase thousands of dollars in precious glass to be totally outfitted.

    You’ll also notice it’s offered with a shockingly thin (read: skimpy?) 40 f/2.8 prime. That’s an odd novelty, but with glass that tiny, does it actually take decent images? Anyway, I don’t care much about that, back to the body–It’s cool to finally see someone make a mirrorless camera that doesn’t demand a whole new army of lenses. It’s about time!

    And still no MILC from Canon… I’m waiting fellas!

    Runner up for interesting new camera in the mirrorless world would be that Fujifilm X-Pro1. It’s predecessor, the X100, was featured on here a while back and remains on the short list of extreeeemely lust-worthy photo gear that I would totally buy if it were only a little more affordable. The X-Pro1 would probably get a whole post devoted solely to it as well, if it weren’t even further into the netherworld of unaffordability. At $1700 for the BODY ONLY, I wonder how many units of this thing Fuji is going to be pushing. For that price, you could get a rock solid Canon or Nikon DSLR AND a lot of great glass too. Unfortunate. But it does have enough unique features that I want to blab about it for a minute. Let’s start with some choice blurbs from the official press release:

    blurb #1:
    The new color filter array paves the way for an ideal sensor that does not need an optical low-pass filter. While the optical low-pass filter is indispensable for the reduction of moiré and false color generated by conventional sensors, it also degrades resolution. Fujifilm has developed a new color filter array that is inspired by the random arrangement of fine film grain, removing the need for an optical low-pass filter to solve moiré and false color issues. In the array, RGB pixels are arranged in 6×6 pixel sets with high aperiodicity (randomness). Increasing the degree of randomness eliminates the fundamental cause of moiré and false colors – a problem that occurs in conventional arrays when shooting stripes and other repeating patterns. The presence of an R, G and B pixel in every vertical and horizontal pixel series minimizes the generation of false colors and delivers higher color reproduction.
     
    blurb #2:
    Extending Fujifilm’s photo film legacy
    In film cameras, capturing multiple exposures is the unique photographic technique of superimposing one image on another by double exposing a single frame of film. Through advanced digital processing the X-Pro1 can simulate this technique by simply selecting the Multiple Exposure mode and taking the first shot. By viewing the image via the Hybrid Multi Viewfinder or on the LCD screen, you can see how the finished multiple exposure will look and then precisely frame the second shot.  
     
    Further enhancements have been made to the Film Simulation modes with the new Professional Color Negative Film Modes (Pro Neg. Std and Pro Neg. Hi) designed for X-Pro1 users working in the studio. The X-Pro1 also offers Film Simulation bracketing, along with AE, Dynamic and ISO bracketing; plus the ability to capture the colors and tonal qualities of popular FUJIFILM emulsions through the vibrant colors of Velvia, the softer skin tones of ASTIA and the natural look of PROVIA.

    That multiple exposure thing is pretty rad. Every camera should have that, using preview on the LCD. That’s science. The coolest thing about this camera is definitely the color filter array though. Okay kids, put on your nerd caps, cuz shiz is about to get hardcore up in here:

    Every digital camera uses an image sensor to collect the photons (light) that make up the picture. Since the sensor itself cannot discriminate colors, filters are used to split the light into RGB (red, blue, & green) components. By combining RGB in different combinations, you can then spell out any color imaginable. Old school photographic color film accomplished the same idea by having (at least) 3 seperate layers of silver halide salts which were dyed differently. Since film was a chemical/analog process, those salt crystals weren’t arranged in any sort of perfectly aligned matrix, they were just scattered all over, however they happened to fall. The characteristics of any given film (contrast, sensitivity, resolution) were determined by the crystal sizes and the amounts of the silver halide for each different color layer. Fancier films had up to 12 different layers used to reproduce colors! So it wasn’t just RGB, it was a whole lot of different colors being combined, and each “pixel” in the film was of variable size.  Click the image of those Kodak T-grain silver halide crystals to see more Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of different films.

    To obtain digital color images, almost all sensors use the standard 2×2 “bayer” color filter, named after a clever Kodak engineer who came up with the scheme during the 70s. (If you’re wondering, Bryce Bayer chose to use an extra green pixel to emulate the human eye’s sensitivity to green light, which is kinda neat!) So nearly every digital camera uses this method of light collection, and even those rare cameras which deviate from the standard color filter configuration still have some kind of repeating, contant pattern. Although it’s not completely clear from the Fuji PR-speak, if their color filters really are randomized across the whole sensor area, woah, that is a major difference in the way light is gathered… and a pretty ingenius mimicry of analog. As a giant in the tradition of film and therefore owner of masterful knowledge upon the characteristics of it, seeing Fuji bring the lessons learned over decades of experience in color reproduction using silver halide emulsions to bear in the new digital era is… way cool. If anyone can do it, it’s them (or Kodak?).

    The story of the transition between the analog epoch and the digital epoch is a tale chock full of “back to the future”-isms. In the sense that as digital technology gets better and better, the goal seems to be emulating the way analog things used to be. We see this is audio mastering (see TRacks-tube/tape emulation mastering software), audio reproduction (vacuum tube pre-amp stereos, and progressively higher sample rates to recreate a more ‘analog’ waveform), musical instruments (amps and effects pedals that strive to recreate the analog ‘warmth’, synthesizers that model their vintage predecessors), and even video games with roms and emulators built to resurrect the early days of gaming. To me, it makes perfect sense that photography, when the technology gets good enough, will undergo this same trend of digital modeling to recreate an analog era gone by.

    Right along those lines, Fuji’s film simulation modes are an ultra-sweet concept that I have seriously been wishing someone would do for many years now. I wonder how those work, exactly… searching for information doesn’t turn up any explanation; I’d be willing to bet that the only difference between the three film simulation modes are simple tweaks to contrast and saturation. The example images shown on this excellent webpage would seem to support that theory. Although it’s complex to compare film ‘resolution’ to an equivalent digital resolution, analog film has somewhere between 15-25 megapixels of ‘resolution’ depending on who you ask. My 18MP Canon t3i starts to inch into this territory. As sensor design pushes even further into the higher megapixels, it’d be really cool to see the characteristics of old school film emulsions replicated not just at the post-processing (software) stage, but at the light-acquisition (sensor/color-filter) stage. Software enhancements are never going to beat photoshop at its own game… but hardware that captures color in a new way? That would be an innovation.

    What would it take to truly create an honest digital carbon-copy of film emulsion? You’d need a variable color filter and as many megapixels as you could throw at it. As in, a color filter where you could actively switch which pixels recieve which color, and do it on the fly. We’d be aiming to mimic the salt crystals as you see in the SEM image, with variable sizes and variable locations for each individual exposure. You’d have some kind of randomization that would rearrange the configuration every time a new photo is taken, within a given set of parameters for each different film emulsion. To really nail it, you’d also want to not just use RGB in your color filter, but a larger variety of color shades to mimic the dyes from many-layered emulsions.

    I lazily mocked up the idea here with a grid over an SEM image of Kodak Portra 160VC  Professional portrait negative film. Average grain size: 1μm.  I only colored in some film grains because it would take forever to do the whole thing and I got tired of clicking.  I did RGB and CYM(K) with a lot of K, I guess.  But you could use many combinations of colors in your color filter, both echoing classic film emulsions, or even getting creative with more funky configurations.

    That kind of light capturing would offer something you could never do in photoshop, due to the fact that it would change the way the actual sensor is classifying colors of photons which make an image *as they come in*. I have no idea how one could create a variable or “active” color-filter, but man, if you could do that, it would open up incredible possibilities in the way light is captured. Think ultraviolet and infrared too. It’s all conjecture, but I find this stuff awesome to daydream about.

    </nerdery>

    The Perfect Camera is the One You Have With You


    2012 - 01.15

    For a long time now, smartphone cameras have been eating up the camera market for pocketable cameras. It’s easy to see why; smartphone cameras are ‘good enough’ for most people, and why carry around a possibly redundant second thing in your pocket? This week in gadget nerd news, I see that Polaroid will soon be introducing an android-powered camera. This is flirting with a dream object of mine: the awesome compact camera that so happens to have a phone built into it.

    For a long time now we’ve seen thousands of high-quality smartphones… that happen to have a decent camera on them. But there still does not yet exist a high-quality camera… that also happens to have a decent smartphone in it! It’s so obvious. Why has no one does this? For serious guys. It’s a photo nuts dream machine. Slam. Dunk.

    There’s even companies who already make excellent smartphones AND excellent cameras, like Samsung or Sony. Man. How hard can it be to combine these things? Apparently, impossible.

    There have been a few halfhearted attempts, like the Samsung sch-w880 (Asia only, and not Android), or the Panasonic Lumix Phone 101P (shown above) which is Japan only, but it IS Android. That lumix comes the closest to what I’m wishing for. You could probably import one, for like a thousand dollars. That’s so sad. This new Polaroid SC1630 is actually nothing more than a rebrand of a phone that’s been on the market in Asia for a long time now, called the Altek Leo. I was kind of excited by the Polaroid phone until I figured that out.

    While all these phones are interesting, I would still posit that none of them are doing it RIGHT. All of them are still trying to compete with phones on slimness and not offering the features that would make the photo geeks salivate. By that I mean no product exists that offers a serious high quality lens with a phone… in a fat body which barely fits in a tight jeans pocket, one that is brazenly and unapologetically a still a camera first and foremost.

    And so, just for fun, I’ve decided to make a fake advertisement for cameraphone of my dreams that would cater to the hardcore photo niche. If you know what “Av” stands for, and have level 10 Photoshop skillz, this is for you. Since Kodak has been in the news lately for their almost-bankruptcy, I’m imagining it as a comeback product for them: a sexy vintage rangefinder that could steal people away from the Fuji x100 AND the ‘Droid-of-the-week in one fell swoop!  And one that relied heavily on advanced knowledge of what made film so beautiful.  (If this website is slow, the same file is also hosted at Flickr here)

    Maybe I’ll clarify a couple things: I envision the camera and the Android section as essentially independent entities. They both use the same SD card, and they both use the same Android set of buttons, but with different functions depending on the position of the camera/android switch. Also observe that there is an AUTO setting on the ISO dial… this means you could set it to Av, pick your aperture, and have the camera autoselect your shutter speed AND your ISO. That would be super duper nice, to help avoid camera shake. When distracted, I get caught by slow shutter speeds in Av mode all the time, it happens easily.

    A few final thoughts: the body isn’t exactly what I wish it could be, as I was limited by my ability to find a rangefinder camera that had high resolution photos taken of it from the front, top, and back. Given the boring backsides of many film cameras, finding the back image was surprisingly tough. It would definitely be two-tone though. No question there. Another limitation was my own Photoshop ability and how much time I wanted to invest getting an idea across. If I were sketching this thing from scratch, I would’ve probably laid out the controls slightly different, but this conveys all the features I wanted, maybe just not in the exact right positions. I thought a edited photo would be a lot more enticing than a sketch though, so I went that route.

    For anyone who’s curious, what’s here is a touched up version of a Zorki-4, an old Soviet rangefinder. I also used the spun dials from my old Marantz amp, a photo of the screen on my Droid X, and the camera/play switch from my old Canon A60 (that switch always felt so sure and right under my finger, with a satisfying click into each position). There’s a few things that did get left out; I would’ve liked to add a neat looking lens cap that tethered to the body with a small cord to stop it from getting lost. Also I would’ve liked to mock up pictures of the accessories, but it would’ve taken a lot of time. It’s hard to translate something in your mind to something visual.

    Last thing I’ll add is that it’s sort of wild that Kodak is even in the position it is… I learned on Wikipedia that in 1976 Kodak had a 90% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.  That’s a lot.  Maybe they should draw on that colossal expertise and build a camera like this one, instead of inkjet printers and digital picture frames.  It’d be cool to see them turn it around and make incredible gear.

    ProTips: Flip Your Web Colours


    2011 - 12.20

    As you can see on this website, I prefer to read white text on a black background. It’s just less fatiguing, at least to me personally. I found myself getting irritated/eyestrain from long webpages full of useful information that I wanted to read but rendered with black text on a bright white background. I don’t know why this is the standard. Maybe the precedent set by newsprint? In any event, there is a solution. Create yourself a new bookmark, and instead of a web address, paste in this javascript:

    javascript: (function(){ var newSS, styles=’* { background: black ! important; color: white !important } :link, :link * { color: #CCFF33 !important } :visited, :visited * { color: #551A8B !important }’; if(document.createStyleSheet) { document.createStyleSheet(“javascript:’”+styles+”‘”); } else { newSS=document.createElement(‘link’); newSS.rel=’stylesheet’; newSS.href=’data:text/css,’+escape(styles); document.getElementsByTagName(“head”)[0].appendChild(newSS); } } )();

    Then whenever you click that bookmark, boom, white text on black background! It doesn’t work perfectly on every single webpage, but on the whole it works well. I generally click it when I find an interesting page that I know I’ll be reading for a while. It’s made an excellent tweak to my web-browsing. Try it out!

    Also, this happened yesterday


    2011 - 11.27

    The latest and greatest Mars rover, Curiosity,  lifted off successfully for the red planet.  I’m guessing all my fellow space geeks were abundantly aware of this already, and knew that this puppy has a footprint the size of a humvee, carries 10 times the scientific payload of any previous rover, and has more sophisticated analysis tools than any previous mission to mars.  This baby is the biggest, baddest, and sexiest rover ever to depart for another world.  It’ll be landing in August of next year.  That’s pretty friggin exciting.

     

    If killing Courier was the right thing to do, then why are we all still talking about a non-existent device one year after the project was cancelled?


    2011 - 11.03

    This week CNET published a fascinating two part article on the death of the infamous Microsoft Courier project, which I had rapped about on here previously. It was a maddening walk down memory lane to read; the story of how a categorically innovative product was sacrificed on the altar of “platform synergy” or whatever corporate doublespeak you want to call it.

    The intriguing insider tale of exactly how it all went down reads a little bit like the Empire Strikes Back, with an ending that sees the team you rooted for in defeat and their forces scattered to the wind with their home base destroyed. Peppered around CNET’s analysis and echoed by Ars Technica (among many places I’m sure) are references to the device being “consumer-focused”. I have a beef with this term; it should be “creator-focused”.

    Someone like me, who curates a website, likes to photograph, and is perpetually jotting down ideas, would truly stand to benefit, perhaps dramatically, from the use of a “digital moleskin” like the Courier intended to be. Ars Technica could not be more wrong when they said that killing the Courier was the right move made for the wrong reasons; it was the wrong move made for Microsoft’s own “right” reasons–maybe preserving a product lineup that operates in lockstep with MS Enterprise 2015 is the right decision to keep your users corralled into your tiny little pen, but squashing this hardware that creative types could use for a whole new digital workflow: that’s a defeat for the everyman, no two ways about it.

    It’s not about the device; it’s about what people will do with it. Apple didn’t create Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, nor did they create Filtatron, the Moog synthesizer app; two of the coolest things to do on the iPad. They set up a platform for people to do neat things, and then creative types figured out how to use it, and turned it into the awesomeness that it is now (and wasn’t on day one). In a smiliar way, you can’t foresee the fresh ideas that would have been inevitably spawned on the Courier. If iPad is meant for consumption and Courier was meant for creation, these devices would have been complimentary… everyone loses in its absence. I would probably be using a Courier to collect, organize, and publish content on this blog right now if it existed. That’s just one narrow, specific example.

    The sad part is that only a company like Microsoft, with huge amounts of resources in software and hardware design, could actually manufacture a compact device that combined slick interface design, multi-touch/gesture input, pressure-sensitive stylus input, handwriting recognition, integration with cloud content hosting, seamless web publishing and so forth. I don’t see anyone else making something that offers up the “whole package” like that. Maybe it’ll be another 10 years before someone manages to work up to that level. Maybe one company will never do it, but it will only be possible with a hodgepodge of various services and some DIY know-how.

    In any event, Courier was a tantalizing glimpse into the future by some very forward-thinking people. A vision too far ahead of it’s time–a byproduct of a company with the creative brainpower to shatter the boundaries of what portable electronics could do, but too straightjacketed by legacy products and enterprise strategery to see the real-world potential of what Courier was.

    But whatever. I’ll step off the soapbox. Microsoft will be Microsoft I guess. It’s unrealistic to expect something miraculous from them.

    (Partial) Camera Lust: The Nikon J1


    2011 - 09.30

    The Nikon J1 is the company’s first mirrorless interchangable lens camera (MILC). That in itself is pretty exciting. What with digital viewfinders, live view, and the new emphasis on movie modes in high end cameras, it’s cool to see the elimination of the mirror and pentaprism format of SLRs. Just extra weight and bulk really. I am ALL for chopping out any of these obsolete bits. Pop Photo gives a great rundown of test shots they captured with the J1, check it out.

    Olympus and Pentax have been barking up the mirrorless interchangable lens format tree for a while now, and the retro-rangerfinder-esque stylings of their Micro 4/3rds format have major sex appeal for photography geeks. It’s super cool to see Nikon finally stepping into the ring (because that means now Canon has to as well, and I own Canon lenses!) But like the micro 4/3rds cameras, big-boy Nikon’s first offering in this vein comes with some whopping caveats:

    1. You can use your existing F mount lenses, but only with an adapter. It’s disappointing that this camera isn’t F-native.
    2. It’s got a crop factor of 2.7. Ouch. That means that your 28mm lens is now equivalent to a shocking 75mm. BOOM, your wide angle is insta-telephotoized! What?!? Jeez!
    3. That crop factor is, of course, due to a smaller than APS-C sized sensor. Hrmmmm. Small sensors are a drag. They mean poor light gathering ability at equivalent apertures, reduced bokeh affect at equivalent apertures, poor high ISO performance and by extension noisy, grainy, fuzzy images, when compared to their APS-C brethren.

    The second point here may really be the killer, as it essentially means you need to buy new lenses for this camera. Good luck getting a true wide angle below a full frame equivalent of 27mm. Nikon’s got a pancake 10mm that comes out in conjunction with the J1, but how long will it be before you can get something like my canon 10-24mm offers me? (16-38mm in full-frame equivalence) Probably never. No superwide. That’s sad.

    It’s a sign that the winds of change are blowing when Nikon makes their first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. MILCs are lighter, smaller, and a logical step in the evolution of cameras. Unfortunately it seems like it’s still going to be a long time before a guy like me would ever want to take the plunge with one of these, mostly due to that staggering list of compromises above. I’ll check back in when Canon makes a MILC with (at least) an APS-C sized sensor. Now THAT would be a camera I’d get truly excited for!

    Bwahnt, bwahnt, bwaaaaaa (that’s a sad trombone sound, for a screwed up camera)


    2011 - 08.02

    So it turns out that the camera I got off eBay had a little issue.  Kind of crazy, but an issue that I only noticed when I tried doing time lapse astrophotography.  In the resultant movie, there were dots hanging in the sky which didn’t move as the rest of the stars did.  I tried cleaning the sensor both automatically and (carefully!) manually.  One or two spots went away, most did not.  I found this hidden function buried in the canon menu called “dust delete data” which I thought might help.  Nope.  Finally I got clever and took a 20 second exposure with the lens cap on.  I thought Ah-ha!  I can use this as a reference of the noise, and use a difference layer in photoshop to remove it.  Hmm, that almost worked, but some of the dots aren’t quite lined up for some reason… Okay, how about if I repeat this process five times with an action file.  Okay, now the spots are gone but the ISO noise is out of control.  Alright… know what, forget this.  Time for a BRAND NEW camera.

    Pffft.

    I’m a big believer in buying pre-owned stuff.  I like to get a good deal, I like to see things get used to the maximum and fully worn out before they get discarded, I like the idea that the things around me have some other secret story of their own before they arrived here that I’ll never really know.  But man, a DSLR camera body is a large, long term investment.  This thing has got to be ready for all the kinds of action I want to use it for.  And in this case, astrophotography would be tedious to fix, over and over and over in the years I’ll be using it.

    So yeah.  eBay camera got sent back to New Jersey and there’s a brand new T3i in the mail set to arrive on Thursday from B&H in NYC.

    A few wacky things worth mentioning:

    • the spots were red, blue, and white, meaning potentially sensor flaws and not just dust which should be dark spots
    • these spots only showed up in multi-second long exposures.  At any normal shutter speeds, they didn’t appear at all.  I took a series of test shots and knew exactly where to look.  They were definitely not there.  They didn’t show up in video either (makes sense, short shutter speeds).  Only long exposures.  Hmph.
    • it’s weird–there’s no way I would have caught this unless I was doing astrophotography.  And if I took single shots only, I probably still would not have noticed it.  But since I did time lapse astrophotography, where the stars moved, only then did I catch this.  Since this is an activity I want to get into, I can’t be havin’ those spots.  My night sky time lapse ought to be crystal clear, for the cash that these camera cost.
    • before I bought the T2i I sort of scoffed at the articulating screen, thinking it was not really necessary and just added to the price.  Having played with the T2i and made a few videos, I figured out how the articulating screen does have value.  It’d be useful for filming yourself.  And for low shots where the camera is almost on the ground.  And, ironically, for astrophotography, where the camera is pointed straight up at the sky.  The only way to see the T2i screen was to awkwardly get underneath the tripod.  So, having almost a week with the T2i, I was sold on the utility of an articulating screen.  T3i to the rescue.
    And the waiting game is well underway, AGAIN!

    A fresh photographic epoch: new equipment and the goals of these acquisitions.


    2011 - 07.27

    I have been waiting for today.

    Today a new camera came in the mail!: a very lightly used Canon t2i DSLR I snagged on eBay. Dude.

    I’ve been dreaming of a video DSLR with extended ISO range for years now. Today it’s HERE. That is so &^%!@*# exciting.

    I’m going to be able to make movies now. Sexy, beautiful HD movies that have blurry backgrounds and sharp detail. This is a major technological advance for my artistic tools. The nerd in me is so ready to rock every dial and button on this puppy! We’ll see if the artist in me is capable of crafting something of beauty with it… afterall, that’s what matters. I see a Vimeo membership in my near future.

    This camera also comes with a battery grip that will accept either AA’s or two of the normal canon camera batteries. Hopefully this should spell ample battery life for doing all-night timelapse photography. That’s like a whole extra layer of cake on top of the icing of the previous cake layer which is the t2i video capability.

    So, what do I aim to do with all this hardware?

    Well step one; I’m taking a trip back home to Wisconsin in Mid August. The objectives:
    1. get some sweet video of my favorite places to visit while I’m there: Devil’s Lake, Parfree’s Glen, Durwood’s Glen, the Baraboo hills, etc.
    2. capture video on the boat outings I’ll be doing with my buddies Bill and Rob. Maybe including a music/dance video of the funk mixset due for release on Bill’s boat, in conjunction with the new wide angle Tamron lens
    3. take all night time lapse photography of the sky in Caledonia where I hope to capture the Milky Way moving over the sky, also in conjunction with the new lens.

    Those are the initial ones I can think of. I’m sure lots of little ancillary bits will occur along the way.

    Long term, I want to make some ‘shorts’–little mini-movies that are digestable 10-15 minute affairs, maybe with the goal of shooting enough footage that I could combine it into something feature length. That’s a tall order, and will probably take me a very long time to actualize.

    Anyway, the tools are here, and I am thoroughly excited to dig in and start playing!

    In the pic below I thought it’d be cool to show the evolution of my camera setup.  The Elan IIe at far left was my first SLR and my last film camera, I bought it at the end of high school.  It’s got a 28-105mm walkaround with some great filters, and a Canon 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 came soon after.  A95 was my first digital, shown here with a fisheye attachment that rocks my socks.  The Rebel XTi was my first DSLR and I got it with the wonderful 17-85mm, my first setup with Image Stabilization.  Next came the Tamron 10-24mm, a bondafide superwide, with 16-38mm equivalence in full frame size.  And finally, today, the Rebel T2i, my first video DSLR, shown here with the 50mm f/1.8, possibly my favorite lens out of them all ;)

    So excited to work with this new capability!

    Old schoolin! – The NAD 6130 Cassette Deck


    2011 - 07.17

    So a few months back I bought a turntable and now I’ve technologically regressed even deeper–Cassette tapes!

    Okay, okay, there’s an explanation for this. I’ve been really digging on the finds I’ve been picking up in the local $0.97 record bins (seriously, 97 cents!) and accordingly looking for a way to share them with some fellow funk and soul addict friends of mine. My buddy Bill has recently acquired a boat. I’ll be heading back home to Wisconsin for a week in mid-August and we’re gonna go out for a day on the lake. I asked him, what kind of musical playback formats does your nautical stereo accept? The answer – cassette tapes, dogg.

    Jeez, cassette, wow. I’m not sure I remember the last time I used a cassette tape, or recorded one. I think it’s been since like junior high. Well over a decade, whatever it was. So I needed to dig up a cassette recording device to bring along some hot jams I excavated from dusty 1970s vinyl obscurity. Enter craigslist! Some dude was unloading this NAD 6130 tape recorder which belonged to his father-in-law who recently passed on. Like a lot of good transactions on CL, the vibe I got from him was pretty much, ‘whatever man, I don’t care what this is, just get it out of here’. That’s the attitude I’m looking for! Twenty bucks, yeah that sounds cool.


    Kind of a funny thing about reading up on the Dolby NRs; I learned that there are a lot of variations in cassette tape technology! There’s Dolby A and B types of noise reduction, and then there’s Dolby C, which actually sounds WORSE if you play it back on a deck that doesn’t support Dolby C. There’s different types of cassettes too, metal ones, ferric oxide ones, Type II, etc. Whoa. This is all way more complicated than I expected. Fortunately, thanks to it’s utter obsolecence, I was able to pick up a Cadillac of a cassette recorder that should handle all of the above for dirt cheap!  Yay antiquated technology!  Check out the green reel to reel style cassette loaded in :D

    SETIstars Infographic


    2011 - 06.26

    So recently I was contacted by the SETI team regarding a sequel to the infographic I had produced a couple months back.  As many of you may know already, they’re trying a new way of keeping the Allen Telescope Array running: crowdsourcing.  There’s a new website over at SETIstars.org where anyone can go and give funds specifically for the restarting of the ATA. It’s a savvy move in the age of kickstarter, microloans, and grassroots funding.  And it’s pretty awesome to think that, well, if the people who should be paying for this won’t pay for it, fine, we’ll do it ourselves!

    I hope the venture is a big success.  It’d be reaffirming to see the citizenship of planet Earth as forward-thinking enough to collectively grok the profound implications that discovery of other intelligences would have.  It would be invigorating to know that we realize this meaningfully enough that we, as single individuals, would band together to sustain this important work.

    In the large scope of things, it’s not all that expensive either.  Just for perspective: the 1st infographic so far has seen over 40,000 views (just the flickr version, nevermind the ones I cannot track).  See the bottom of this new infographic to see how much 40,000 people would need to spend apiece to keep the ATA in action…

    There is a slightly-higher quality version available at flickr, as well as a whopping 11,749 pixels-long monstrosity of this new graphic combined with the original.  Anyone is welcome to use or repost this to their heart’s content.  All I request is a link.  And that you can chip in at least a fiver to SETIstars! Anyone can swing that.

    Also, I got a lot more creative with the background this time around.  Check out the remnants of Kepler’s supernova, comet NEAT, and the Andromeda galaxy!

    Special thanks to Phil Plait, Jill Tarter, & John Girard.

    Lastly, if you’re really into this sort of thing check out some other space-musings on the site

    Kepler Space Telescope Exoplanets visualized (great video comparing sizes and orbits) – video

    “oh, by the way” (a reminder of just how large the universe really is)

    Putting Things In Perspective: NEAT!

    When I’m Feeling Down, These Are Some Things That Bring Me Back Up (a roundup of inspiring projects)

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