Month: January 2011

Helmand province from above

Helmand province from above

Helmand province is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the southwest region of the country. The Helmand River flows through the mainly desert region, providing water for irrigation. Much of the fighting between NATO and Taliban forces is taking place in this province and Helmand is said to be a Taliban stronghold.

Associated Press photojournalist Kevin Frayer recently sent out a group of stark black-and-white aerial images that show the rugged, inhospitable terrain of the province. Frayer made the images while flying in a medevac helicopter from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Shadow “Dust Off”, Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment.

Spectacular collection.

At Flickr, Fending Off Rumors and Facebook

At Flickr, Fending Off Rumors and Facebook

Although Flickr is well known and still widely used, its traffic is shrinking. Unique visitors to Flickr in the United States fell 16 percent, to 21.3 million, in December compared with a year earlier, according to comScore. Meanwhile, for that same time frame, use of Facebook’s photo features grew 92 percent, to 123.9 million users.

I can only speak for myself: flickr is a well designed, easy to use system and the reason my use has dropped off has nothing to do with Facebook or any other photo sharing site (I don’t use Facebook), it’s because I haven’t been taking as many pictures lately and I burnt out on heavy use of flickr.

I think that’s true for many. Yes, many people use Facebook but they’re not choosing Facebook because it’s a superior photo sharing site, they’re using it because they already chose it for social networking.

Flickr’s tools are easy to use, stable, and have been for years. Facebook is a mess by comparison. However, since Yahoo acquired flickr development has slowed and this says worlds about how Yahoo has never recognized the value of flickr. They’d better wake up.

Jeff Pearlman: Tracking down my online haters

Tracking down my online haters

Jeff Pearlman, a writer for the Sports Illustrated online decided to track down a few of the followers who rudely trashed him on Twitter. When he talked with them on the phone he found them decent folks who got caught up in the anonymity of the internet and admittedly went overboard. This is quite common and while not everyone who is uncivil online regrets it, what Jeff did was a useful exercise for himself and for the rest of us reading about it.

Travels with iPad

I’ve been meaning to do a post like this for a while, sorry its taken me so long.

Traveling back from LAX to JFK (Los Angeles to New York) yesterday I saw the following:

In the United *Red Carpet Club (RCC): four 11″ MacBook Airs, one 13″ MacBook Air, twenty iPads (used with a mixture of Mac OS and Windows laptops), four 13″ MacBook Pros (some might have been aluminum unibody MacBooks) eight 15″ MacBook Pros, at least ten laptops of various brands running windows and four small netbooks of various brands. Too many iPhones to count.

I routinely use my 15″ MacBook Pro on a desk in the RCC because I like the keyboard and I have a wall outlet to plug into and desk space to spread out on.

* The Red Carpet Clubs have a yearly subscription price which can be paid for with miles or money. If you fly a lot these clubs (all major airlines have them) are an oasis of quiet, space to spread out, free coffee, juice and snacks, clean bathrooms, and calm. Wifi is free (via T-mobile) in the RCC.

On the plane, a 757 *PS flight: five 11″ MacBook Airs, at least fifteen iPads that I saw in use, at least five netbooks of various brands that I saw in use, and a variety of both Mac and Windows running laptops. There were also at least fifteen Kindles in use including by the woman sitting right next to me.

* PS = premium service which is a specially modded 757 with more first and business class and gogo inflight wifi. United only flies these planes from New York to LA and New York to San Francisco.

These PS flights are very popular with frequent travelers and I regularly see actors on them as well as the same business fliers. The types of people who use these flights, especially who have enough miles or money to be sitting in business or first class, usually have the resources to buy the computing tools they need so I can’t say that the 11″ MacBook Air has penetrated beyond the types of people who take these flights but I did notice that not everyone using one was a business man or woman in a suit, some were younger people in jeans.

The iPad has penetrated everywhere, across all demographics and across all computing platforms. And, this penetration hasn’t slowed down or peaked, it continues to grow. People in all classes were using iPads and Kindles too. I find it interesting that some who use Kindles don’t realize it has a radio because they fail to turn it off when the flight attendant announces that all electronics need to be turned off. This is both worrisome and wonderful: worrisome for the lack of knowledge, wonderful that the device is thought of more as a book, less as an electronic appliance (we hope). Of course, I have no clue how many iPad 3G owners are also clueless about this.

The iPad has made travel for me a dream. I can now more easily sit in coach without stuffing my pack under the seat in front because I don’t need access to it during the flight. All I need is my reading glasses, headphones, iPad, and a few Clif bars. I choose aisle seats and I can get to my pack overhead if I need to but so far I’ve not needed it. My 15″ MacBook Pro is in the pack overhead.

I buy the gogo inflight internet service for $12.95 which I’d like to see built in to the price of a ticket but that’s not going to happen until more people use it and the airlines are in the black. It’s easy to set up on the iPad: run Safari, click on any link and you’re redirected to gogo’s login. If you have an account connecting is a few clicks and you’re on. It helps to have set up the account ahead of time so you’re not typing credit card numbers on a crowded plane. Gogo has gotten better over time about making login easier. They could be better but it’s a snap once you’re used to it.

The downside of gogo as it is now is that watching streaming video is near impossible so using it to watch a Netflix movie or even a youTube video is rough (many choke points). I’m not sure if this is because so many people are now using the service on each flight or because the bandwidth of the service isn’t fast enough yet but it’s just not great yet. However, it’s fast enough for almost everything I like to do on my iPad: read my feeds with Reeder, push the stuff I want to save for later (video, for instance) into Instapaper, email articles to friends, check email and Twitter (the iPad Twitter client sucks) and watch movies I’ve already ripped at home on my computer.

Just a note: In my opinion RSS is a much more useful subscription service than Twitter. I’ve felt this for a while now but using both on the iPad cements it. I have no clue how people with Twitter accounts can be tracking thousands of feeds and actually keep up with them. I’ve given up on it really, use it more as a broadcast medium than a tracking medium.

I watched an Eric Clapton concert and The Taking of Pelham 123 (new Tony Scott version), stayed on top of email and read my feeds, listened to a podcast of a segment of This American Life I missed and read the New York Times’s latest headlines, all on less than 1/3 of the battery life of the iPad.

It was easy to pause, get up and let the folks sitting inside out to use the restroom and it was easy to pull the tray table down to hold a drink. The iPad is the ultimate travel companion and the only thing that would make my life better at this point is if Bose would put thicker and less tangly cables on their headphones (Triports).

Before I bought an iPad I was seriously considering a MacBook Air for travel but after a few trips with the iPad that desire is gone. I want the integration of iOS in a traveling device not to mention the long battery life. I was a fan of the iPad before I bought one and was late to adopt one, mostly because of my reluctance to own a computing device without a hardware keyboard. Now that I’m over that hump and because a lot of my interaction with both my computer and iPad and iPhone is via cloud-based services the iPad is just one of three devices I interact with the world through and on planes it’s the device of choice.

Richard climbing in Yosemite

Richard Climbing in Yosemite

Mid-1970′s, Yosemite Valley, California. This picture was taken by my then girlfriend and climbing partner Faye Nakamura. I’m not sure which climb we were on but it’s not a wall since I don’t have a haul line or aiders. I’m guessing its the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral Rock, one of our favorite all day climbs in the Valley back then.

You’ll notice a few “Friends” (expandable protection) on my rack on the right. These were original pieces made by and bought from Ray Jardine who invented them long before expandable protection became popular and generic.

Most of the photographs we took on climbs in those days were slides and I have yet to scan my extensive and unfortunately deteriorating slide collection. I hope to get to it before it fades away.

Yes, I was a serious climber for about ten years and climbed quite a bit in Yosemite Valley including some walls. These days my knees knock cleaning my gutters on an extension ladder and hiking is what I do for adventure. I’m glad I experienced the climbing scene when I did; I never got into the indoor climbing gym scene, competiions, or speed climbing with and without equipment. I was what modern climbers call a “trad” (traditional).

For those of you interested in climbing (and entertaining stories), you might enjoy this (true) story I wrote a while back: A Climbing Story.

Black bear on car in Yosemite

Black bear on car

July, 1969, Yosemite Park, California. I took this out our car window against my father’s advice. We went to Yosemite as a family each year until I went away to college; my parents continued to go for many years after. Those were amazing years in Yosemite and we even experienced the famous Yosemite Firefall where park rangers got a pile of logs burning on top of Glacier Point and pushed the embers over the 3000′ cliff to the delight of the tourists below (well, not directly below).

Yes, we went to Ansel Adams’ slide lectures and met him numerous times at his gallery in the Valley.

Those were the days. A few years later I was back in Yosemite as a climber. Those were even better days.

I Just Want a Dumb TV

I Just Want a Dumb TV

We’ve had a “new” HD TV for a little over a year now and while our TV has a fantastic picture its menu of features and their implementation is less than wonderful.

Our TV is a Sony KDL-40EX700 40″ BRAVIA HDTV. It has 4 HDMI inputs and a USB port as well as Sony’s “Bravia” software that allows internet access among other things. I had no desire to have all of this extra crap on this TV but the only way to buy a TV with the picture quality we wanted and 4 HDMI ports was to get all the extra stuff.

Sony must try hard to hire the worst UI designers in the world; the menus on this TV are so totally lame and unintuitive it boggles the mind (if Apple only made TVs…). But, for the most part, we avoid looking at those menus. We have a Bose DVD player/stereo, a cable box, and an AppleTV connected to it. All we really need to do is cycle HDMI inputs when we want to change which of these devices is feeding the TV. But, in true form Sony can’t even get that simple thing right: sometimes hitting the remote button to change inputs brings up a screen with all the live inputs listed, sometimes it cycles to the next live input but timing or dwell or nothing seems to affect this.

As John Herrman at Gizmodo says, what many of us really need is a great LED/LCD panel, a bunch of HDMI ports and some component ports for getting sound out of the TV and out through a decent sound system.

All of this said, we’ve decided to get a bigger TV and Sony has just come out with a new line of TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show with even more crap embedded in them. Seeing this, I made the decision to simply buy the same TV we have only bigger, the Sony KDL-52EX700 52″ BRAVIA HDTV which B&H had one left of just before they discontinued it. It cost about the same amount as our current 40″ model and is big enough so it’ll take care of my lust for “bigger” for a while.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

More about MagCloud

A nice overview of how the MagCloud publishing system works. As readers here know, a few of us have produced a MagCloud project: Wabi Sabi which was a lot of fun. We’re working on a few new issues of the magazine right now and one should be out in the next week or so.

MagCloud is a well designed web service from both a publisher’s and a reader’s perspective and the video above sheds more light on how the back end of the service makes the process work well.

[via Powazak]

Ted Williams gets a break

Can a viral video change a life? If you’re Ted Williams, a down-on-his-luck Ohio man with a voice tailor-made for radio, the answer is yes. After this video racked up millions of views in two days, job offers have started rolling in.

Fantastic. This made my day. Week. Go Ted.

Addendum: More including a great second video at NPR: Homeless man with golden voice.

More: The Reddit online community tipped this story and deserves credit for helping connect Ted Williams with potential jobs.

[via The Daily Beast]