revjim.net

November, 2003:

Syntax: what is it?

I ran across what seems like an interesting project today: Syntax. The only problem is, I can’t tell exactly what it does without downloading it and using it. And I made a pact with myself not too long ago that forbids me from downloading and attempting to use code of questionable value or operation. In the past I’ve spent way too many hours downloading a huge chunk of code, installing it, and writing a quick application in it only to realize that I hated it or that it was horribly written.

Syntax is particularly confusing. They reference PhlexDB (wiki reference) and PxDB often in their wiki, which is odd. You see PhlexDB (whose website is now just blank, however it appears, based on the google cache, that it’s been taken over by a Porn Site) is a project I looked at long ago. I thought their code was interesting, just not mature enough to be used yet. Additionally, the lack of documentation made it hard to decipher. But it was something I intended to watch closely. I was also watching another project named Xulit!. Xulit! has language issues: their developers did not write in English well enough for me to comprehend everything they tried to discuss. However, the project looked interesting and I decided to keep a close eye on it. Then, Xulit! announced that they merged with PxSystem. Now, I can’t find a reference for this on the web anywhere, but I was almost certain that PHlexDB and PXSystem were either one and the same, or that they were together somehow. Xulit!’s site hasn’t been updated for a few months. But PXSystem’s site (if you can call it that) seems to have recent entries in the changelog.

So I’m not sure if Syntax == Xulit! == PXSystem == PhlexDB or not. All four projects had similar goals — hence my interest in all of them — so it surely makes sense that they might consider working together. The Xulit! site seems to have the most content while the Syntax site seems to speak better English than the others. None of the projects ever produced, as best as I can tell, a working, usable, documented, code-base.

I’m so confused. I don’t really care what came from where. If the code is worthy, usable, (at least) self-documented and free (as in speech and beer), I’ll use it. But I don’t really want to download their entire codebase and invest a few hours into learning how it works only to be disappointed that its the same unfinished product under a new name. Or, worse yet, another product that is unusable and undocumented. The Syntax Wiki seems to have lots of information in it. But none of it really makes sense without downloading the code. And, I can’t seem to find a "here is a complete working example of how to use this code" type example.

Who knows?

as the mold grows

Two Saturday’s ago, Joel and Emily came over to hang out. And, in reaching to retrieve… something… from the back of our pantry I noticed green mold growing on the sides of it. The next day Jess went into the office to let them know.

Of course, they were immediately offensive, claiming we must have spilled something in there. Regardless, they said they’d send a maintenance guy out to look at it and pour bleach on it.

Bleach? Is that all they were going to do? Jess talked to them, so I just let it go for the time being. When Monday evening came around and they hadn’t been to our apartment to look at it, I decided to bleach it myself. It looked nice and pretty then, but, three days later it was back.

The next day, Tuesday, Jess went to the office again to tell them that no one had shown up. They apologized and said they’d send someone out right away. No one came.

Ditto for the next day, Wednesday.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday all pass us by. The mold still grows. No one shows up. So this morning, I decide to call them myself.

A girl answers and she apologizes for the delay and asks for me to give her all the details again. I do, and she tells me that, by 4pm, someone will call me. I also let her know that I already bleached it, so there’s no point in doing that again.

About 30 minutes later the maintenance man calls me. He’s in my apartment and he wants to know where the mold is. I spend the next 5 minutes explaining to him what a pantry is and where mine is located. He finally finds it and says he’ll call back when he’s got it all figured out.

An hour later, the apartment people call again. There is a leak coming from the apartment above us. She’ll be contacting them this evening to take care of it. I inform her that no one lives above us, so it would be fruitless to contact them. Apparently they don’t even know which units are vacant in their own apartment complex. So then she tells me that she’ll have the leak taken care of today but that, because the wall is so wet, the sheet-rock will need to be replaced. That will be done today or, by the latest, tomorrow, according to her.

We’ll see.

I’m so sick of this shit. I’m so sick of incompetent people who don’t give a shit about their customers, their jobs, or doing things the right way. Small details really irk me, but I can ignore them. But when blatant avoidance of any form of customer service occurs… it really ticks me off.

Inklog: another big chunk

I wrote a huge post about how excited I was about the recent Inklog work I’ve been doing, but Firebird crashed and ate it all.

This gist of the story is, it works now. It doesn’t do much more than show static HTML with a common look-and-feel, but all the big work is about done and modules (the easy part) are ready to be written.

I’m very excited.

film

This weekend I bought a lens for my film camera. Something to get me snapping again. In most cases, with my digital camera, I shot with my zoom lens stuck around 35mm, which is equivalent to about 50mm in the film world. So I decided to buy Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8 for about $100. I decided to try out Competitive Cameras, so Jess and I headed out there. It was a nice place. But it reminded me too much of a restaurant that doesn’t have any prices on the menu. In fact, many of the items on the shelves didn’t have prices on them. They guys there were very friendly, and very knowledgeable. However, they were a little too pushy for my tastes. I told them I wanted the 50mm f/1.8, and they tried to upgrade me to the f/1.4, a difference of about $200. They told me the f/1.4 was much sharper and they knew that’s what I was looking for. When I declined, knowing that the f/1.8 would suit my needs perfectly, they tried to sell me a wide-zoom instead. I fained interest and, when they told me the lens was sharp I asked "as sharp as the f/1.8?". "Well of course not," he said. Then why is he trying to sell it to me, I wondered, knowing that I’m looking for sharpness. I walked out with what I intended, the 50mm f/1.8. Unfortunately, their price was 10% higher than Arlington Camera. I should have just drove out to Arlington instead of supporting a business that wasn’t at all competitive and way too pushy… but I didn’t feel like it. So I paid the extra $10, bought a few rolls of film, and went on my way. I doubt I’ll go back.

The lens is great. Truly my favorite focal length to use. It just feels so natural. I can’t comment on the sharpness of the lens, as I’ve yet to get either of the two rolls I blew developed. But, reviews from other sites say that it’s actually better than the f/1.4 anyway, as long as you don’t need that extra 3/4 of a stop.

It’s so weird to go back to film. First of all, my film camera is so fast compared to the D100. When I first entered the world of digital, I used my Minolta dImage 7. That thing was so slow that, when I got the D100, I felt like I was on speed. But, it’s nothing compared to the speed of my film camera. Additionally, I realize now, I had gotten very comfortable with the thought of digital. I took more shots because, if I didn’t like it, I could always tell right then and I could just redo it. I also didn’t think about exposure nearly as much. Why bother? If my first guess wasn’t right, I’d see that and just try again. Having no instant feedback forced me to recall all of the exposure rules and guidelines that I’d somehow neglected every time I brought the digital to my eye. It felt much more rewarding, and much more pure.

I was a bit annoyed by my inability to change film speeds on a whim. I found that I’d used half a roll of Panchromatic 125 and then took it out again that evening to do some night street photography. I’d have done a lot better with a roll of HP5+ in there, pushed a stop or two. Though, in reality, if I had been shooting digital, I probably wouldn’t have pulled the images off the card yet, it’s annoying me that I don’t have them already. I figured it wouldn’t be much of an issue, since I usually wait so long to pull them off anyway. But now, when I am ready to work with them, I wont be able to because they’ll still be unprocessed. C-41 (color film) is fairly easy to get developed just about whenever in an hour at WalMart or any drug store. But most of the Professional labs aren’t open on the weekends: just 8ish to 5ish, Monday through Friday. So getting Black and White done whenever I feel like it is near impossible. I have to plan a trip to a Pro lab on my lunch break one day this week, drop the film off, and then plan a trip back the next day to pick it up. Additionally, when all of that is said and done, I still can’t really even look at them unless I’m willing to blow $0.65/shot getting proofs made, or $16 to get them scanned and put on CD. And, if I get proofs, I still can’t put them online or edit them until I’ve found a scanner to pull them in with.

Even if I manage to master a nice process for getting the images in a time-frame that I can accept, I’m still out $25, total, for a 24 exposure roll. That’s means I’m blowing more than $1 every time I push the button. I guess I should consider getting index prints, reviewing them in the lab, and then placing an order for individual scans or proofs right then. So, in that case, after three consecutive trips to the lab per roll, I should have what I want for as cheap as possible. Assuming, I get 5 images that are actually worth using per roll, that means I’m only spending about $0.65 every time I push the button. That’s still a bit expensive considering that I shot over 200 images one weekend with my digital. I’d be out $130. $130 isn’t much when you’re getting paid to do what you’re doing. But it’s a lot when you’re not. And… I’m not.

Now I’ve got a roll of ISO 100 color film in the body. It’s probably about half spent. So, it won’t be until next weekend that I’m able to change it. And I’ll be stuck on ISO 100 until I do. Maybe I should just call it a roll?

Regardless, two important lessons were learned this weekend. I’ve relearned to appreciate film and taking each exposure slow and accurate, as though I were paying for each snap. Secondly, I’ve learned to really appreciate digital for what it’s worth and have accepted that, it certainly is the future of photography. There is little that a 35mm film camera can do that a 6MP digital can’t. And the technology is only getting bigger, better, and faster.

Digital SLR: is it worth it?

Is buying a dSLR at today’s prices worth it? Ignoring, for now, the difference in time to get results between film and digital, let’s look at the costs. The cheapest dSLR body on the market today is the Canon Digial Rebel at around $900 ($700, if you’re willing to buy it from someone you don’t trust). A comparable film body with roughly the same feature set runs about $200. Of course, I’ll need a flash card. I can get roughly 3 "rolls" of film on a 256MB flash card which can be had for $100. Assuming I’ll never need more than 3 rolls of film at any one time (which I’ve gotten by with so far) that should do well. So we’ve got $1000 for the dSLR and $200 for the SLR. That’s a difference of $800. At $5/roll for processing (assuming I don’t use B/W and do it myself) and about $4/roll for 36 exposures, I’d have to shoot 89 rolls of film to make up the difference. That’s 3200 shots. Amazingly, the total number of shots I’ve taken (that I have a record of anyway) with my digital camera(s) is 3276. That’s about 2 years time. Additionally, it should be noted, that I take a lot of "extra" shots, just because I can, with the digital. I almost always shoot in the same ISO for each "session", so, while being able to change that on the fly is NICE, I can get by pretty well without it. So that means it’ll take me 2 years to pay for the dSLR.

Now for a few more factors. I don’t want Canon… I want Nikon. That ups the cost of the digital by $500. Additionally, since I already have a GREAT Nikon film body, that decreases the cost the film camera to $0 (more really, since my Nikon film body is miles ahead of the Canon film body I was using as an example above). With those price changes in place, the dSLR is $1500 more than the SLR. That’s 6000 shots or, about 3.75 years time.

Ahhh, but wait. I’m not getting "digital" images this way. Processing plus a PhotoCD will run me $16/roll plus the $4 for film. That’s 2700 shots or about 1.5 years. Or, if I go with the Canon comparisons, 1440 images or .9 years. That’s not too shabby.

I could buy a scanner and save that money, since the PhotoCD doesn’t really produce images that are of good enough quality to be edited and printed (actually… I don’t know that for sure… I’m just guessing). A decent scanner will run me $200.

Of course, with film, I now have to store tons of negatives and deal with transporting them, and their the effects of aging. Additionally, I won’t be able to control the final look of the prints as easily as I do now.

Additionally, with the dSLR the lenses I want cost a bit more because they have to be so much wider to accommodate the 1.6x multiplier due to the size difference of the sensor versus 35mm film.

With the digital, however, I don’t get to carry around lots of rolls of film. I’m limited to the 3 that fit on the card. I could get a bigger card, or a couple of cards, or I could get a 40GB image holder which would let me have 36 rolls of film at any one time. They run about $300.

So, (aren’t you glad you read all this?) in conclusion, there is no way to compare the two. I would have to narrow it down to a specific photographic application or task, which is difficult to do considering my inconsistent usage patterns.

I’m so glad I took the time to do this. (stupid over analyzing brain. Will you stop already?!)

camera fundraiser: why?

I updated the Camera Fundraiser Page with a better explanation of why I am selling prints and asking for donations. I realized I never fully explained everything here either, so here it is:

On Saturday, November 9th, my Nikon D100 camera and all of my Nikon lens, were stolen from my truck. Of course, I’m a moron and didn’t have renter’s insurance, so my loss isn’t covered. So I’ve started this fundraiser to try to recover some costs. I’ve never sold any prints before (except for at cost/given away) because I hate to sell my work short and I know that no one would pay what I’d ask for them. However, in this fundraiser situation, I’ve decided that the only way to sell them, is to sell them cheap.

I’ve done the math a few times, and I figure I lost about $4,000 in equipment if I were to buy it all new again. I worked hard to save up for each of those purchases and I was almost speechless when I first realized they were missing and that I would have to save up all over again.

Please don’t feel obligated to help me in anyway. I’m not the kind of guy who expects his friends, or even strangers, to give him handouts. I want them to do it on their own freewill: out of respect, or kindness, or the need to get rid of some cash. I look at it as a chance for me to recover some of my loss, and a chance for people who enjoy my work to have an opportunity to buy something that I would normally ask 10 or 20 times the price that I am asking now. I’m sure there are millions of starving and needy people in the world who could use the money more than I could. Let’s face it… I don’t need a camera at all. But it was something I enjoyed. Something I taught myself step-by-step. Something I poured many hours of practice, reading, and analysis into. Something that I
worked my butt off to afford. Something important to me.

So that’s my story. If you like what you see here and you have the money, buy something. If you can’t really afford it, and have a buck or two to donate, it will be greatly appreciated. If you can’t do that either, I’ll understand entirely. If you don’t agree with this fundraiser and refuse to support it, that’s okay
too.

Thanks a lot. I appreciate you all more than I can express.

Yay Slashdot

I’ve always heard people talk about Slashdot and being Slashdotted, but I never realized the effects could be so drastic and so long lasting.

These are my webserver statistics as of 9:15am this morning. For reference, we were first linked to around 7 or 8 in the evening on November 12th. These stats are for revjim.net only and do not include any of the photographs on photos.revjim.net or any of the other content owned by me on various domains and subdomains.

LOAF.php

There are plenty of LOAF implementations out there. However, in my opinion, they are all poorly coded. Most of them aren’t even in the least bit object oriented. The Java version is, of course. Because of the coding style used, most of them don’t promote use as a library in other greater projects. Additionally, none of them are for PHP.

So, after much work, I am proud to present to you, LOAF.php version 0.2.4. Written purely in PHP and entirely object oriented, this version is fully LOAFful and conforms to all the existing specifications.

If you find this software useful, and would like to give something back to the author, please feel free to donate to my camera fundraiser.

if you know where I am, why don’t I?

As mobile location technology continues to penetrate the market, more and more people are worried about the ability for third parties to determine where they are in the world. Most cell phone companies are stating that they wont disclose that information to anyone without your permission, aside from 911 service centers. While, in a Big Brother, 1984, "you actually know what I do on my lunch break?" sort of way, it worries me a bit. But, at least at this point, what I’m more concerned with is this. If you know where I am, why don’t I?

If my phone has all this amazing capacity to locate me to within 900ft, why don’t I have that information? Surely there should be an easy, simple programmatic way to gather such data about myself. But, I would assume, if there were, someone would have already written a program for the Nokia 3650 to do so. And there isn’t one. Not that I can find anyway.

So what’s the problem? I’m paying, indirectly or directly, for this service/feature… why can’t I use it for something other than a 911 call? Having it for a 911 call is great and all but… why stop there? Why not give me that data and let ME (the programmer) decide what to do with it?

Slashdotted…

Well, for the first time ever, a page on a site I run is being slashdotted.

MySQL was the only thing to go. It didn’t crash, it just ran out of connections since Apache was maxxing out at 150 and MySQL only had 30. I upped MySQL to allow 150 as well and everything seems to be holding up okay.

Lesson learned. I think.

Update (2003-11-13 10:03am): A link to the slashdot article on Gizmodo could mean even more traffic today