Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

The First Daffodil of Spring

January 30, 2013
Daffodil in bloom at the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina.  January 28, 2013.

Daffodil in bloom at the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina. January 28, 2013.

(Note:  All pictures may be enlarged by clicking on them once or twice.)

Monday Betsy and I went to Asheville, North Carolina, to the Biltmore Estate.  We went primarily to visit the Conservatory — something we do a couple of times each year — and to do some walking around the estate.

As we were walking through one of the gardens back to the car, we spotted this daffodil in bloom under a tree.  Some of our daffodils are up, but they are a long way from blooming.  It was a surprise to find this one in bloom.

Orchid in the Conservatory at Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina.  January 28, 2013.

Orchid in the Conservatory at Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina. January 28, 2013.

As I mentioned, Betsy and I went to enjoy the flowers in the Conservatory.  We spent quite a bit of time in the Orchid Room, enjoying beautiful blossoms like the one above.

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Focusing On What’s Important

July 20, 2012

Orchids in the Conservatory of the Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee. June 24, 2012.

(Note:  All pictures may be enlarged by clicking on them once or twice.)

Which of these two images do you like best?  The one above or the one below?

Orchids in the Conservatory of the Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee. June 24, 2012.

The interesting thing — to me — is that both images are from the same photograph.

Here are two more images, again taken from the same photo.

How is this possible?  The secret is a camera that allows me to focus after the picture is taken.

Lake Watauga, Centennial Park, Nashville, Tennessee. June 23, 2012.

Lake Watauga, Centennial Park, Nashville, Tennessee. June 23, 2012.

The camera is a Lytro Light Field camera, which takes what are called living pictures.  Clicking on a living picture changes the point of focus.

George using his new camera. (Photo by Betsy)

The camera is different from any other camera I’ve had.  It has no auto-focus, no flash, no dials and no shutter lag.

It has taken me a while to learn how to use the camera, but it has been a fascinating experience.  If you would like to experiment with some living pictures (remember you change the focus by clicking on the picture), you can do so by clicking HERE.

Apple, what have you done?

July 6, 2012

Burgess Falls, Burgess Falls State Park, Tennessee. May 26, 2001.

(Note:  All pictures may be enlarged by clicking on them once or twice.)

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of Apple products.  My first personal computer was an AppleII.  I’ve worked with Macintosh computers from just about the time they were introduced, and am now on my fourth iMac computer.

I also have a couple of iPods and an iPad.  I really do like Apple products.

Cumberland Falls, Cumberland Falls State Park, Kentucky. June 23, 2005.

There is one area, however, in which I’m fed up with Apple, and that is their online hosting services.  Apple first offered online hosting of photos and files with Home Page, and I uploaded many pictures to Home Page to share them with family and friends.

Elk River Falls, Elk Park, North Carolina. February 15, 2008.

After a couple of years Home Page went away with its place taken by Mobile Me.  Fortunately Apple provided an easy way to move to Mobile Me, and that’s what I did.  Over the past five years I’ve uploaded many more photos to Mobile Me.  I really liked that service.

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina. May 23, 2002

Mobile Me went away on June 30, and there is nothing from Apple to replace it.  Fortunately Apple did provide plenty of advance notice, but that was about all.  So I decided to create my own site completely independent of anything Apple does.  For the past few months I’ve been working to set up the site and move pictures and files to it.

Lower Whitewater Falls, Sapphire, North Carolina. November 9, 2006.

I’ve finished moving our waterfall collection.  It currently contains the 452 waterfalls that I’ve cataloged to date.  I’ll add more waterfalls as I get my pictures organized.  If you would like to visit our waterfall collection, you can do so HERE.

North River Falls, Tellico Plains, Tennessee. June 18, 2010.

I’m in the process of moving other pictures and files to my site, and I’ll let you know as they are posted.

Fun With Our Geotagger

December 2, 2010

Craggy Gardens, Craggy Pinnacle and Craggy Dome Overlook.

As many of you know, Betsy and I have a geotagger, which allows us to assign GPS coordinates to our photos.  Once the photos have been ‘tagged’, it’s possible to use Google Earth to show the location at which the picture was taken.

Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel on the Blue Ridge Parkway, November 22, 2010.

On our way up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell, we stopped at Craggy Gardens Visitors Center to taken in the view.  The picture above of the Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel was taken from a small overlook across the parkway from the Visitors Center.

Burnett Reservoir, Buncombe County, North Carolina. November 22, 2010.

While there, I also took this picture of the Burnett Reservoir down in the valley below.  (This is the same picture I posted yesterday).

A late afternoon view from the Craggy Dome Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.  November 22, 2010.

A late afternoon view from the Craggy Dome Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina. November 22, 2010.

On our way back from Mount Mitchell we stopped at Craggy Dome Overlook to get this picture.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I enjoy seeing both the picture and its location.

 

Technology and Cades Cove

August 30, 2010

The track of our visit to Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. August 27, 2010.

One disadvantage to taking lots of pictures on a trip is that it is not always easy to remember where a particular picture or series of pictures was taken.

My blogger friend Neal brought an AMOD geotagger to my attention and I got one a few months ago.  While I have used it to tag the location of some of our pictures, I really haven’t experimented with it to get a good idea of what can be done with the data.

Betsy and I drove to Cades Cove in the Smokies after running an errand in Knoxville Friday morning.  The park service has repaved the Cades Cove Loop Road and we wanted to see how the project turned out.

As we got near Cades Cove I turned on the geotagger.  The yellow line in the screen shot above is a track of where we drove or hiked.  The screen shot is taken from Google Earth and I can put in waypoints and descriptions as you can see.  On Google Earth I can also zoom in or out to give different views of the area.  I could post the track on Google Earth so others could manipulate the view as well, but I’m inclined not to do that.  I have enough trouble posting my current web pages and blogs without adding more.

Map of places in Cades Cove where we took pictures. August 27, 2010.

This second screen shot is from another application that uses the tracking data.  The red dots on the Google map of Cades Cove represent a picture that we took.  When I’m in this application (JetPhoto Studio) I can click on a dot and the associated picture opens up.  This information could also be posted, but again I think I’ll just keep this to myself except for an occasional screen shot.

Hopefully, now that I’ve experimented with some of my new technology I’ll have some pictures to post in the near future.  And if I don’t get pictures posted soon I know Betsy will!

Stay tuned.

My New Toy

July 22, 2010

Betsy got a laptop (MacBook) for her birthday last year, and really likes it.    We got a Mi-Fi (Verizon wireless station) at the same time, so Betsy can use her laptop just about any place we can get a wireless signal.  She especially likes using her laptop while I’m driving — she’s been able to do a good job of keeping up with emails and blogs while we’ve traveled.

I’ve had an iPod Touch which has wireless capabilities for a little over a year, but since it’s about the size of a cellphone, my fat fingers have had trouble using the keyboard and navigating the web.  I couldn’t keep up with Betsy and her laptop no matter how hard I tried.

About a month ago I got a new toy — an iPad.  It’s got a good size — about 9.5 inches x 7.5 inches.  It is very light-weight and easy to carry around it is also wireless, so I can use it anyplace Betsy can use her laptop.  I’ll admit it’s nice to be able to take it out on the deck and go through my emails and surf the web.

The interface is a touch screen and is very easy to use.  I can have multiple windows open in the browser and can easily switch between them.  The keyboard in the landscape mode is fairly large and is a standard QWERTY layout.  I haven’t had any problems with it.  About the only problem I’ve had is getting Betsy to drive so I can use it while we’re on the road.

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One thing the iPad can’t do is add more hours to the day.  I’m going to Hendersonville this morning to see my parents and won’t be back until early evening.  So I’ll be behind on my visiting and commenting for a couple of days.  Don’t give up on me — I’ll catch up as soon as I can.

What is RAW Format?

February 20, 2010

Little River Falls, Fort Payne, Alabama. February 14, 2010.

I’ve mentioned, in connection with my new camera, that I’m experimenting with RAW format images.  Several people have asked me about RAW, so I thought I would share what little I know about it.

Until I got this new camera (a Canon EOS Rebel T1i) my digital cameras saved images as JPEG files (some digital cameras use TIFF format).  In order to get the JPEG file the camera converts the light striking the sensor in the camera to something that we can see.  JPEG files typically are made up of 8 bits of data per color per pixel.  But the sensor can provide 14 or more bits of data per color per pixel.  We can see the JPEG image, but the conversion uses only part of the recorded data.

I know I’m showing my age, but think of the days when cameras used film.  A JPEG file is like a print or a slide — we can see the image.  A RAW file contains all the data the camera can provide (those 14 bits per color per pixel) but it is like undeveloped film — we can’t see the image until some processing is done.  In working with RAW format I have to do the work that the camera does with JPEG.

So what have I learned after a week of experimenting?  The most obvious thing is that RAW files are much bigger than JPEG files (about four times bigger in my case).  Another thing is that to take full advantage of RAW data, special software is needed (Canon included software with the camera).  On the other hand, since all of the sensor data is present, images can be ‘fixed’ in ways that might not be possible otherwise.  It is even possible to change some of the picture settings after the picture has been taken (it looks better with landscape settings than with standard settings).

Right now I’m not sure how much I will use RAW.  I’m cheating right now and am saving images as both RAW and JPEG files.  The card in the camera is big enough that I can take several hundred pictures before I have to download to my computer, so I’ll probably continue to do that while I learn more about the things I can do with the RAW format.

Keeping Up With the Kids

September 19, 2009

4-DIRECTV_HDDVR_Pro_receiver

Yesterday was a  big day for Betsy and me.  We finally caught up with a couple of the kids as far as technology is concerned.

When we visited Betsy’s son Mark and family in Texas earlier this year, we were very impressed with their DVR.  Not only could they record television  shows to view later, they could pause a show to answer the phone and then catch up (skipping over the commercials in the process), and do all kinds of other neat things.

As I said, we were impressed, but we decided we really didn’t need it.  However the subject of a DVR kept popping every once in a while.  We kept missing a favorite show when we went Hendersonville to see my parents, and then two of our favorite shows from last season were scheduled against each other this season.  So we decided that perhaps we could use a DVR after all.

We’ve had DirecTV for several years now and Betsy was able to get us a ‘deal’ by contacting them.  The technician came out yesterday and installed our DVR.  The only thing I wonder about now is if Betsy will want to get a TV as large as Mark’s?

Now that I think of it, we’re  not doing too badly on the technology front for a couple of senior citizens.  We each have our iMac, and when Betsy got her laptop we converted to a wireless network in the house.  And I do have an iPod Touch which is pretty neat technology.

As I said, I think we do a pretty good job of keeping up with the kids.  But now that I think of it, my son does have an iPhone . . .

We’re Helping the Economy

February 21, 2009
Our new computers.  February 20, 2009.

Our new computers. February 20, 2009.

Betsy and I have been doing our part to help the economy.  So if things don’t improve soon, it won’t be because we haven’t been trying.

Yesterday we had to take our Prius into the dealership for her 120,000 mile service.  Let me just say that the service required was fairly major and I’m sure we helped contribute to the paychecks of at least a couple of mechanics.

We then headed over to the Apple store and made a MAJOR contribution to the economy.  We’ve been discussing new computers for over a year now, and we finally decided to take the plunge.  We like our Macintoshes and so we stayed with them.

Now all we have to do is transfer our files from the old computers to the new computers.  Hopefully much of that will be done overnight.  But if you don’t hear from us for a day or two, you know we’ve encountered a problem.

Mission Accomplished

January 3, 2009
Some of the vinyl records I've converted.

Some of the vinyl records I've converted.

During the 2005 Holiday Season I started to convert some of my vinyl  Christmas albums to digital format.  By that time we were listening mostly to CDs and I thought it would be nice to listen to that Christmas music in the car or on my iPod.  Besides, some of the records had had a hard life and were getting pretty scratched up.

Since I have a Mac, it was a simple manner to connect the turntable and amplifier to my computer.  I got a program, Sound Studio, to allow me to edit the sound files and I was in business.  In addition to creating the sound files, Sound Studio allows me edit the files and remove many of the skips and scratches.

When I started this project I didn’t realize how long it would take.  While I was still working I didn’t have a great deal  of time, but even after retiring I still had plenty of things to do in addition to my conversion project.  I worked on Christmas music when I had the time for about six months out of the year.

I must admit that there were times when I thought I would never get done, but Thursday evening I finished converting the last of my records.  I’ve converted a total of 55 records to CDs.

I feel like I’ve earned myself a rest, but we have many more records that need to converted.  What should I work on next — Henry Mancini, Glenn Miller or Arthur Fiedler?