Blog: 2008-04

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Boston Independent Film Festival 2008

If you, like me, forgot to put IFFBoston on your calendar-- well, you still have today and tomorrow.

I was only reminded myself because, while walking with a big camera over my shoulder in Central Square the weekend, I made repeated eye contact with a Katee Sackhoff lookalike. In front of Starbucks (ha). I assumed at the time that, if it was indeed her, then she was looking at me because I was suspected paparazzi, so I kept my hands off my camera and walked on.

Googling right now for confirmation Sackhoff was in Boston was what reminded me of IFF.

P.S., Just say NO to celebrity 'news' and paparazzi stalkers.

Nikon Speedlight SB-28 Foot Replacement

Got a Nikon SB-28 with a broken hotshoe foot?

One of the SB-28 strobes I bought last year came with a broken foot. I didn't bother to repair the foot at the time, since it still fit fine in the cold shoe of and umbrella adapters. Now that I've decided to sell my set of SB-28 units, however, I decided to up the resale value by replacing the foot.

In the US, the foot part itself costs only $2, plus about $5 shipping and handling, from Nikon Parts (voice: 310-414-8107).

I won't go into detailed instructions here; just a few tips for people are are experienced at such repairs.

The only tools I needed were a small Philips screwdriver for the external and internal screws in the foot, and a slotted jeweler's driver for depressing the tabs of the white partial ring.

When removing the foot, note that it will remain tethered close to the chassis of the flash by a very thin and fragile flat cable. Do not break this cable.

One important thing to note is the proper assembly of the foot. Note that the half of one face of the partial ring has a ramp, and the white tab of the locking pin travels along this ramp. Verify that the locking pin can be extended and retracted by turning the dial.

One final suggestion I have is that, if you're buying a replacement foot and plan to keep some SB-28 units, order an extra $2 foot at the same time. These feet are infamous for breaking, and are presumably designed to break easily, to sacrifice a $2 piece of plastic rather than cause extensive damage to the camera and or strobe.

APS-C Crop Hoods for Full-Frame Canon DSLR Lenses

 [photo of camera with lens with alternative hood] Getting ready this morning for shooting the Boston Marathon, I decided it was time to get the alternate hood for my Canon 17-35/2.8 to fit. Yesterday, I shot the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials with this lens, and for a few shots I could've used an alternate hood.

The standard hoods for Canon EF lenses are generally designed for full-frame film or sensor, but the majority of Canon DSLRs have an APS-C sensor that means a 1.6X magnification factor. Since there is a narrower visual cone out of the front element, a longer hood can be used. Since the 17-35/2.8 is by design an ultra-wide lens, the standard hood, the Canon EW-83C, does not block as much flare-causing light as would be helpful.

A couple months ago, after a bit of searching, I found David Burren's alternate lens hoods page. I then ordered a Chinese knock-off of the EW-83J on eBay. It arrived weeks later, was of surprisingly crappy quality, and didn't actually fit on the 17-35, so it sat around unused.

Ten minutes with a metal file this morning has the EW-83J knock-off mounting OK on the 17-35. (I filed the plastic hood, not the lens.) The best part of having such a cheap-crap hood is that I will not hesistate to cut a finger hole in the underside, to be used for adjusting a polarizer.

If anyone finds an alternate hood that works unmodified on the 17-35, please do let me and/or David Burren know.

Trying Canon E-TTL II Lighting for Summer

I decided to resume doing dance photography, and this time with designed lighting, rather than ambient. I've been using ungodly-powerful monolights for portraiture, but can only flash sync as fast as 1/250 with those. So I decided to try using Canon E-TTL II high-speed sync to freeze motion Lois Greenfield-style at 1/500, and to otherwise see how well the Canon system works for lighting in general. The last two weeks, I've built a kit of an ST-E2, 580EX, and 430EX, which will work with my existing stands, modifiers, etc.

Towards the end of the summer, I'll decide whether to stay with the Canons, or move back to monolights (or to full-manual Vivitar 285HVs and Radiopopper Jrs.). I'm selling one of my White Lightning Ultra 1800 units right now, but will keep the other one and a large softbox in case I need to blast an entire dance studio in a way that Canon Speedlites just cannot do.

I'll be starting test shoots with new dancer models in about a week.

Scheme Libraries GPL v3 or AGPL?

Virtually all of my Scheme libraries since 2003 were released under the LGPL 2.1 license. I chose LGPL as a way to help promote the use of Scheme, at a time when Scheme was less popular than it is now becoming. I will plan to continue using LGPL on future versions of existing libraries.

For new Scheme libraries, however, I'm leaning towards using GPL 3 or maybe even AGPL 3.

My thinking is that the normal case for uses of libraries I share as free open source software, is that those uses should be in the same spirit. The GPL and AGPL reflect this spirit better than the LGPL does.

If I went with GPL or AGPL, then developers who wish to use my new Scheme libraries but don't like that license would have the option of negotiating alternative licenses with me, as they have with my LGPL-licensed libraries.

I welcome emailed comments on this from Scheme developers.

TaxActOnline.com Review

I did my US and Massachusetts taxes yesterday, using TaxActOnline.com. It was mostly a pleasant experience. There were a few glaring UI design flaws, but the overall experience wasn't bad, and a lot of work had gone into the logic. It also resumed the session perfectly after Firefox 3 Beta 5 crashed while deep into a multi-page dialogue. Most pages loaded speedily, despite it being the Saturday afternoon before the deadline when I'd expect server load to be high. They really need to get rid of the interstitial ads for premium services, or at least reduce the frequency of the ads.

HtmlPrag Replacements and HTML Templating Language Imminent

The only upside to spending the last two days speaking calmly and non-threateningly to CSRs and technicians about having no Internet (and not having enough attention to dedicate to mission-critical hourly paid consulting), I puttered around in little chunks of time on polishing up the four free Scheme libraries that will replace HtmlPrag and add a templating language. They seem to be fully functional now, so I'll release them shortly.

Implications this will have for Scheme implementators other than PLT:

  • It would be really nice if everyone implemented SRFI-0 for identifying the particular Scheme implementation.

  • I'm being more strict about R5RS and SRFI compliance. Now, for example, your integer->char must work for ASCII characters at least, you must have an error compatible with SRFI-23, and your SRFI-6 must support string ports that don't barf on a close-output-port.

  • You might want to be thinking about implementing a module system with dependencies, if you have not already. In the past, I've tried to make my portable Scheme libraries standalone as much as practical, but I'll increasingly be tying the libraries together more, in large dependency graphs that will make use of load less practical than before. I will probably avoid cycles, but no promises.

  • You will need syntax-case if you want the snazzy templating language. The first release of html-template.scm will be PLT-specific, since it uses the PLT syntax objects heavily, but I hope to rig up a portability mechanism to work with plain syntax-case without discarding the benefits of syntax objects when run under PLT.

Natural Enemy of the Internet: The Backhoe

I was off the 'net Wednesday and almost all of Thursday, due to at least ten things going wrong in concert, and I won't be fully back online at home til next week at the earliest.

It all started with the proverbial natural enemy of the Internet.

I'll save the praise and condemnation of various parties for later.

Oh, I did hear a few interesting things from a Speakeasy rep:

  • The average lifetime of an ADSL modem is 2-3 years, and one lasting 7 years, like my Speedstream 5260 did/has, is unusual.

  • Leaving an ADSL modem on while the line is down takes a heavy toll on the modem, and can push it over the edge.

  • Sometimes, leaving the modem off for a few hours, to let it cool down, helps.

I'm not certain that my modem died. My other best theory is that the restored physical line has poorer quality than pre-backhoe.

The Senao 802.11b PCMCIA card that I bought 4 years ago surprisingly gets much better signal than the integrated wireless in my modern high-end ThinkPad T60. At the moment, the Senao is finding 6 times as many APs as the integrated does, plus the Senao has enough gumption to actually connect to a neighbor's AP.

Thanks to neighbor's graciously shared WEP key, I have a mostly stable link tonight. And I'm only 18 hops from my colo server that's a couple miles away. :)

We Apologize For Any Inconvenience

Twice recently, I have been told by eBay sellers, "I apologize for any inconvenience." I think they do not know what this phrase means, and what it does mean (at least in American culture) is annoying. I shall endeavor here to explain why the phrase should be abolished, except perhaps when delivered as a facetious sneering quip in a bad action flick...

"We apologize for any inconvenience" is a weaselly insincere PR butt-covering phrase, and rarely serves an honorable purpose. What it means is:

  • We don't acknowledge that you've been harmed -- either because we don't think you have, or because we are trying to avoid legal liability.

  • If you've been harmed, we're saying the harm is at most a mere inconvenience -- either because we think that's what it is, or we are trying to minimize legal liability.

  • We think we sound professional.

  • We're probably not sorry at all.

In one recent experience, laptop parts I need (hinges to hold up the display) have still not shown up after more than a month. In another recent experience, an expensive professional camera lens arrived seriously damaged, and I was careful to absolve the seller of blame and be clear I was only asking for information needed to make an insurance claim with the shipper. In both cases, I was definitely harmed, the harm was worse than an inconvenience, and I think people saying the phrase were reasonably well-intentioned but didn't know what the phrase meant. It would have been better to say nothing at all than to say the phrase.

I suspect that there are three core causes for the vile phrase being perpetuated:

  • Business largely existing in a moral vacuum.

  • People who get the impression business communication is necessarily insincere, and therefore intentionally mimic what they think of as professionalism.

  • People who don't think hard enough about what they're saying.

Just say no.

I apologize for any inconvenience.

AlienBees Housing Color Changes

I was thinking of downgrading from my White Lightning Ultra 1800 units to perhaps AlienBees B800 units, and further thinking of trying to buy used. One problem with buying used is that there aren't many on the used market, and the AlienBees are available in five different colors... Basic black is more my style than, say, one hot pink and one neon green.

AlienBees tech support informed me that they're not set up to sell me black housing parts, but they can change the housing for me at the factory. The fees they quoted were reasonable, and substantially lower if the unit was still under warranty. (I won't repeat the numbers here, since I don't know whether those were standard prices or something they came up with ad-hoc.)

I'm blogging this info/idea for future Web searchers. I probably won't be availing myself of the option, since I'm finding that AlienBees hold their resale value remarkably well, so it would be almost a straight-across trade from an Ultra 1800 to a B800.

Earlier to... 2008-03

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