Month: December 2006

Sierra Nevada in Warren

Sierra Nevada in Warren

Warren, Connecticut. Anne and I will undoubtedly be asleep when the clock strikes midnight here tonight. We’re new year’s eve duds for sure. We had a wonderful dinner with friends here in Warren last night and that, for us, will be it.

However, I’d like to toast all of you and wish you a happy new year.

Erin watches the service

Erin watches the serviceWashington, Connecticut. Erin attended her first Christmas eve service at the First Congregational Church. We went to the early service which is tailored for kids and the place was teeming with them. I think she had a good time although she was a bit tentative in this picture.

Christmas EveThe minister is Cheryl Anderson who’s a fantastic person: charismatic, worldly, liberal (in the best sense of the word) and articulate. She dealt with the semi-chaos of having the church full of little kids with great poise. Erin can be seen right in the middle looking back at grandpa taking this picture.

MacBook Pro Hard Disk Replacement

MacBook Pro Hard Disk Replacement

As some of you may remember, I dropped my MacBook Pro a little over a week ago and killed its internal hard disk. I ordered a replacement from Other World Computing and installed it and aside from some dings on the case I think I’m back up to speed with this computer.

Testing the Internal HD
It wasn’t until I tried to erase my internal hard disk (running from an external backup) by writing zeros rather than a simple erase that I was able to determine for sure that something was wrong with it. I was able to erase it and test it without problem with disk tools but subsequent use showed me there was something wrong. Writing zeros confirmed this. I thought, incorrectly, that writing zeros or “zeroing all data” was a matter of security (not simply killing a directory but killing all data) but in fact, it’s also a test of writing to every track and sector of the hard disk. Once my friend Dale aimed me in this direction I found that Disk Tools choked about an hour into the writing of zeros: it found a track it couldn’t write and sat there clicking. I then knew the hard disk was shot and I’d need to replace it.

Which Replacement HD?
Other World Computing has numerous SATA internal hard disks that will work in a MacBook Pro so the question was, which to get?

The hard disk that I had in it that I was replacing was a standard, Apple installed Seagate Momentus 100 GB 5400 RPM drive. OWC sells Hitachi/IBM, Seagate, and Toshiba replacement drives. Whatever I got had to not only work in the MacBook Pro (any of these will) but it had to be compatible with Apple’s energy conservation software, it’s motion detection software, and given that MacBooks and MacBook Pros run pretty hot, whatever I got ought not be any hotter than what I was replacing.

I decided to stick with Seagate as I knew it would work with Apple’s system software so the question was, 5400 RPM which is what I was replacing or 7200 RPM which is a substantial performance increase. Given that I’m about to install Aperture on this computer, I considered the 7200 RPM drive as it would give me faster performance for what is undoubtedly a disk-intensive application (Aperture does a lot of reading from and writing to the HD as it moves through images as on large RAW files not everything will fit in memory or even in a memory cache). However, my guess was that 7200 RPM is a hotter drive than 5400 RPM and I noticed that Apple offered it in their 17″ MBP but not in their 15″ as standard equipment. This might be simple product segmenting: higher performance on larger, more expensive machine to push people into buying it but it also might be that the chassis on the 17″ is big enough to absorb the extra heat.

In the end, I went with almost a direct replacement: 120 GB Seagate, 5400 RPM.

Continue reading

Aaron shooting up

Aaron shooting up

New York City. Aaron and I did a lens swap for a bit, he got my 24-70 and I got his 50mm f/1.2 and the first thing I did was shoot him shooting with my lens. The Canon 50mm L is a very nice lens and while there’s no way I’m getting one any time soon, one can dream.

I’ve been out shooting with both Aaron and Janel numerous times, both in New York and up here in rural Connecticut and we have the best times and almost always come away with great images. They’re easy, don’t rush around, answer my novice questions and are generous with their equipment. When you’re with the right people any place is a good place to take pictures.

Two Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lenses “bokehfy” Times Square

Two Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lenses "bokehfy" Times Square

New York City. These two Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lenses, when pointed at one another amplify the blur and bokeh between them enough to stop everything in Times Square. No one had ever tried this before and it had an immediate effect: Times Square ground to a halt struggling to move through the thick bokeh blur.

The police behind asked Aaron and Janel to pull their cameras apart so regular movement and traffic could resume.

Officer: "You have lot of nerve bokehfying Times Square this time of year. If I catch you using those lenses here again I’ll put kit lens bracelets on your bodies for 30 days."

Dusk on Lake Waramaug

Dusk on Lake Waramaug

Warren, Connecticut. We live a half mile from this beautiful and clean lake and in the summer we swim, kayak, and just hang out on it. We see this view almost every day and my wife and I discuss the seasonal change in the lake and view often. By this time in years past the lake is starting to freeze over with ice and by the end of January we can walk on it. By February people are ice fishing and driving snow plows on it to plow ice hockey and skating rinks. I can’t say if the fact that this lake is far from freezing over is a result of global warming, but given that we’ve had no snow and the lake is liquid certainly points to climate change.

Holiday Bread

Holiday Bread

Warren, Connecticut. My wife Anne has been making this holiday bread for over thirty years. The tradition is to have it with a sugary icing and lots of butter on Christmas morning. I have to say, even though Christmas isn’t my holiday, I look forward to this bread which is not quite as eggy as a challah but close.

Note: she made ten of them this year, many to give away.

Ladybug on MacBook Pro

Ladybug on MacBook Pro

Warren, Connecticut. A few days ago, early in the morning, while walking with coffee in one hand and this computer in the other, I tripped over a box and went flying. You can read the gory details here if you like.

I back up my computer every day with a great product called SuperDuper! and I had a backup of my computers hard disk which got jarred out of working alignment in the fall. Last night I used a second external hard disk to back up my backup again using SuperDuper! and while I wait for a new internal hard disk which I’ll put in on Wednesday, at least I have a working machine and a backup of it’s data. Life, while not perfect, is good.

Ladybug on MacBook Pro

While making the backup of the backup last night, a good luck ladybug landed on the bezel of the MacBook Pro screen and proceeded to walk up one side, across the top, down the other side, out onto the firewire cable and onto the working external hard disk, then back the same way onto the screen, as if to okay and bless this process. Eventually she just sat there looking at me, sort of like my old friend the jumping spider (who’s around but shy these days).

Bottom line: my wife still loves me, I’m not hurt, and I have my data (although not my dignity). I even made a new friend (the ladybug). I can’t complain.

MacBook Pro survives fall, sort of

Two mornings ago while carrying a cup of coffee and my relatively new 15″ MacBook Pro, I tripped over a box and went flying. I wish someone had been there to take a picture as I know it was a spectacular fall. The sound of the computer hitting the wooden floor was so loud that Anne thought a bookshelf had fallen over. I’m pretty sure I was completely airborne and parallel to the floor before I crashed down.

We drink our morning (Peet’s) coffee out of large Starbucks tumblers with closed tops so only a bit of coffee spilled but the computer hit hard. Very hard. Worse than a mere drop from 4 feet, it had much of my weight attached to it. Oh god.

I survived physically although my 55 year old psyche is definitely battered. “Old people fall down but you’re not an old person… uh… you fell down…”

Right, let’s not go there. The computer, which was sleeping (HD heads park in sleep) got some dings and the case is warped but the screen did not shatter and when I opened it it woke up like nothing had happened. Lucky me, or so I thought.

Portable Computing
I’ve had PowerBooks as long as Apple has made them and one or another has traveled all over the world with me and until two mornings ago I’d never dropped one, spilled coffee on a keyboard, or done a thing to cause these important parts of my life any distress. Since I got involved with computers in the late 1970s, whatever computer I’ve had has been the center of my life and once I moved from desktops to laptops the computer has become even more entwined in my life. I like it this way and my wife likes it this way. With a desktop computer I’d be in the office most of the time; with this computer I can sit in the living room with her reading Salon or google news while she reads or knits. This computer is not a second, portable computer, it is my only computer, and as such, the absolute center of many aspects of my life. I know how valuable it is, I treat it well and back it up and love it “up one side and down the other.”

Fit and Finish
Another complicating factor in this situation is that the case on this MacBook Pro has been slowly coming apart at the seams. Nothing huge but the fit and finish on the top edges/corners where the sides intersect with the top of the keypad area has been a problem ever since I got it and it was getting worse. This is the second MacBook Pro I’ve had; the first one was returned in less than a week and exchanged for this one for the same reason: the fit and finish on the case was just not right. I decided to live with this one as exchanges and data movement is a drag and there had been a “bump” in dealing with our local retail store that Apple corporate had to step in and make right (they did and they were wonderful).

AppleCare
So, now that I’ve dropped the computer whatever issue I had with the case is pretty much blown as there is now a lot more case damage than there was “naturally” before. I repeat, it amazes me that the entire thing didn’t shatter so while I am less than enthused about the fit and finish of the case, I am delighted that it withstood this fall.

Given that this is my only computer, it’s not like I can just send it off for repair. And, I have AppleCare which I love as it’s been very useful to me over the years, but, a fall like this is not something they cover so a repair is gonna cost me. However, the case is just cosmetic so what the heck, I can live with a beat up case. Continue reading

Tables, spreadsheet app for Mac OS X

Daniel Schwill releases Tables 1.1 spreadsheet app for Macintosh OS X. Universal install, works on older and new Intel Macs.

Tables web site

Wow, this is great news and I just tried it, very slick and easy to use. Beautiful app too. I’m using AppleWorks’ spreadsheet for keeping track of financial stuff as I don’t need Excel, I just need a simple spreadsheet. This looks like just the thing. A bit more testing and I’ll buy it. Wow, just what I was looking for.

(Source MacMinute.)

Erin on Stage

Erin on Stage

Waterbury, Connecticut. I finally* got a few images of my five year old granddaughter Erin doing a Romanian folk dance with fellow students at an all school event. They all had a blast while parents and grandparents went nuts falling over each other with video and still cameras trying to document this "important" event. There was no family pressure on me but it was a challenging photo op with a dark stage and spot lighting and hey, the kids were cute.

*I say finally because Erin doesn’t always like to be photographed and I respect that. When she was younger my camera was almost always between us: she’s cute and photogenic and I have the gear and close to enough skill to make nice images of her. However, as she got older she wanted to talk with me, not my camera, and told me that in so many words. When your grandkid says stuff like this, it’s pretty hard to ignore them or even sneak pictures with a longer lens. And (the wisdom of youth) she was right, even though we don’t talk about world events I know her better and she knows me better because the camera isn’t between us as much.