Monday, July 30, 2007

Putting the Camera Gear Into Use

Now that I've used the 30D along with my set of lens I can better comment on whether my purchase decisions were good or bad. My reason for purchasing the 30D was because my existing point-and-shoot were simply too slow to capture the baby pictures. The 30D was well rated and capable of shooting very quickly. Canon's lenses are also known to be very good. The Rebel line of camera, while relatively inexpensive, seemed to leave my friends wanting to upgrade to the 30D after they got more experience with photography. The 5D, a full frame professional camera, is out of my league given my amateur status. :-) There is no need to talk about the Mark series...

Starting with the body, I'm very happy with the 30D. I feel that I made a good purchase here and it is the sweet spot of bodies for someone like me who takes pictures of family and friends, vacations, and occasionally tries to dabble in trying to do something artistic. The body alone doesn't make the camera so let's discuss the lenses.

I started out with the 50mm f/1.8 II which is what every beginner can feel comfortable starting with (unless you bought a kit with the lens). At under $80, it is fast, easy to use and produces good pictures. For indoor baby pictures, this can be pretty sweet as it lets you get some good close-ups so this is definitely a good buy.

My other prime lens is the EF 28mm f/1.8. Again, a solid fast lens that is great for indoor pictures of the baby. It does require you get closer to the baby if you want the close-up which can distract the baby from what he's doing and is what you were trying to get a picture of, but the quality and speed of the lends is excellent. If I didn't have this lens, I'd be happy with the 50mm because I tend to like to take real close-up shots, but for typical indoor shots of people and objects, I like this lens. I've noticed that indoors it's getting closer to 50/50 whether I have the 50mm or 28mm on the camera. I don't have much desire for the 24mm or 17mm lenses. Conclusion? Based on the growing frequency that I'm using the lens, I'd say it's a worthwhile purpose.

For my versatility camera, I picked the EF 28-105 f/3.5-4.5. When I'm on vacation or just out-and-about, I seem to have this lens on 90% of the time. It lets me take pictures of closer objects when I want to and gives me the flexibility to zoom in on stuff not too far away while being relatively quick (does require me to up the ISO sometime). I got some great shots while on vacation with this lens. I tend to like smaller social gatherings so that mean I'm usually fairly close to the subjects I'm shooting. The times I really feel the lens falls short are at events like weddings where I'm not always close to the main subjects (i.e. bride and groom) and I want to capture their expressions or when I'm trying to shoot pictures of the entertainment from my seat. Then I would wish that I had a 200mm lens. So, thumbs-up on this lens.

My final lens, the EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6, is the only one that I can't say definitely that it's a good purchase. The 100mm range means that it's not well suited for shoot close-ups (100mm means that the object size in the picture is about the size that your eyes see) and while the 300mm gets you close to the action it isn't as versatile as something that goes from wide-angle range to zoom range. In other words, this might have to be a secondary lens and that means when it is not convenient to switch lens then this one might not get used. I'm planning to spend more time using this lens and see if my particular style of photography and the subjects I shoot will eventually make this lens a fit.

Now, let me review my other accessories. I got the battery grip and I'm really happy with it. It adds to the solid feel of the camera (but also weight) and it makes the camera look darn cool. It does add bulk and camera bags might not be designed to fit it so keep that in mind. Some people also feel that it makes the camera feel too heavy but I like that solid weight feeling it adds to an already solid body. Besides, it looks cool! :-D

The canon camera bag I got is not bad. I was able to configure it to fit the body with one lens attached, all my other lenses, cables, manual, lens caps, adapters, and a point-and-shoot. The problem I ran into happened when I got the flash and the battery grip. It took a bit of re-working the configuration to get everything to fit without things falling out when I open the bag, and now that I got everything in the bag is very heavy. I wouldn't want to walk around on vacation with the bag and all the gear inside. So, basically it has become a good storage bag and not as good to travel around with.

I needed a flash and have no complaints about the 430Ex. I've not used the 530EX so I can't compare but the ability to point the flash where I wanted instead straight on the subject with the built-in makes the flash worth it although it also makes the camera heavier and bulkier.

So where does this leave me...? I'm pretty happy with everything I've gotten. The lens and body I picked suits my needs very well. I think my lens collection covers 95% of my needs. I do occasionally wish for a greater zoom then 105mm so that I can just stick with one lens for my normal travel needs. This has made me look at the 70-200mm L lens which is one of the higher rated lenses especially the new f/4 version that is smaller and lighter and supposedly have super good image quality. The other lens might be the 28-300mm lens which covers the whole range that I'd probably use but is said to be very heavy (3.7lb to my already heavy body+battery pack) and the images might not be as sharp as the 70-200mm. Given the versatility of having 1 lens do it all, it might not be a bad trade-off especially since the images still seem to be pretty good given the reviews I've read. At $2000, though, I might go with the safer f/4 bet which runs at around $1000 (still pretty expensive...).

Traveling around with a baby means having a backpack is pretty much a necessity, but a backpack that can hold a notebook, baby gear AND a camera is what I sorely want. I'd like to be able to fit in my body+lens combo, flash and maybe one prime lens when walking about town on vacation and not have something stabbing at my back when I shove the camera in.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More dependency problems with Fedora 7

Doing an upgrade from from FC6 to F7 doesn't seem to remove or upgrade all the FC6 packages as I continue to run into conflicts with the fc7 package not being able to be updated because the fc6 package and an i386 package still remain on the system. The latest conflict was the ltrace package which was solved by first removing the existing package with yum and then re-running yum update.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I love meetings, I hate meetings, I love meetings... Okay, okay, I have a love-hate relationship with meetings. There are three types of meetings (no, it's not the good, the bad and the ugly) that I've found myself in. The first type of meeting is the useful meeting where the right people get together and figure out a solution to a problem.

The second type of meeting can also be useful which is the information meeting. This type of meeting is when one person needs to pass along information to a group of people followed by a discussion or questions. Type 2 can be tricky, though, because it can easily become an useless meeting if the information being given out is ill-prepared or not useful. Also, don't drag out these type of meetings for too long 'cause people have a limit on how much they can take from one person droning on-and-on.

The third type of meeting is the bad one, and unfortunately, the most common one that gives meetings a bad name. This is the meeting that someone has in order to show he's doing something to justify his existence at the company. There is often no true purpose at this meeting or to collect the people there together, yet it seems to last forever. Sometime this can be disguised as type 2 where the person talks forever on a topic that nobody needs to hear about and probably could've been done more efficiently in an email. There is often a lot of people in these meetings but no clear action items results from it. People might say something just so they can meet the "I participated" criteria but there is very little investment by the group. Occasionally there is one person who tries makes it his soapbox, but given the lack of interest by the group who soon just wants to get out it doesn't result in any positive action. In the end, everyone leaves feeling that they just lost a few hours of their lives.

My point? Make sure there is a clear purpose for calling a meeting and make sure you stay focus on the topic to be addressed/solved. If it's for information, get to the point and keep it clear.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Camera Gear update


Bought the Canon EF 100-300mm f4.5-5.6 USM for my long range zoom.

Canon Speedlite 430EX for my flash needs.

Got myself the Canon BGE2 Battery Grip.


Shard, or sharding, has become the new buzz word lately. The term seemed to have been popularized by Google and made more prominent by Flickr and Digg who credits it to helping them scale up performance. Not being familiar with the term, I started to do some research around the web to try to understand what this new technology is.

My initial investigation made me more confused. Based on description by Digg, it sounded like all they are doing is traditional data partitioning (vertical or horizontal, I forgot) or maybe database clustering to distribute load.

When I look at the comments made by Google they also only spoke about the physical layout of their database, but on closer examination it revealed that they work more with Hybernate's sharding mechanism, which is a software ORM (object relational mapping) solution, along with their database architecture. ORM is not new either. Essentially, it means to create an object for accessing data that abstract it from the underlying database architecture. What Hybernate takes one step further is to allow multiple data sources and still create one data object to be used.

In the end, it seems like sharding is a new term to describe the use of ORM with database partitioning together.

Fedora 7 First Impressions

Now that I've had a day to soak in F7 here are my initial impressions of the new distribution.

While F7 should be more of significant upgrade, I'm not sure if the average user would feel that way especially if they just upgraded from FC6. At least, I felt a bigger leap was made between FC5 and FC6. One problem with Fedora's upgrade process is that all it really does is to upgrade your existing packages to newer versions. If you were running Firefox or Thunderbird, you get version 2.x instead of 1.x. Fedora's upgrade process never asks if you like to try the new things they've added such as Xen virtualization which is a pretty major portion of the new version. The same thing happened in FC6 where the much heralded Compiz desktop effect didn't get installed if you just do an upgrade from FC5 so the user would have to know to find the package and install it themselves.

Obviously, my very first impression of F7 wasn't that good because it didn't boot up! It wasn't too difficult to fix it, but still annoying especially because my FC6 instance was working fine and I didn't upgrade to fix a bug.

Beagle might be a good desktop search system and I do appreciate desktop search tools that Google and Yahoo provides, but I don't like Beagle or more specifically how it tries to do stuff without you knowing. First, it runs at the most inconvenient times and slows down the system. It doesn't make it easy for you to turn off because even after "turning it off" it still have scripts that runs without telling you. I had removed Beagle in FC6 and it appeared again in F7.

For those with a stable FC6 system and isn't dying to try the virtualization elements of F7, I'd suggest waiting a bit for all the bugs to be worked out. This is the first time I've recommended that for a Fedora release but it is only the second time where the kernel it comes with actually has a bug that effected me.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Fedora 7

Today, I optimistically decided to upgrade from Fedora Core 6 to Fedora 7. Given how smooth going from FC5 to FC6 was, I thought I could do it quickly in the morning before everyone was up. When will I learn...? ^^;

The install went pretty well initially. I popped in the install DVD, did a media check on it and let it work its upgrade magic. Everything looked okay when it said it was done and ready for a reboot so I let it. That's when I hit the first problem. For some reason, it did not update the GRUB loader so that it still defaulted to the FC6 kernel which no longer existed because it was upgraded to F7. Getting around it was easy because GRUB comes up again and ask you to pick another selection so I just picked the F7 kernel.

The next problem was that almost immediately as it start loading, it complained about a corrupted drive. Oh, oh... Fortunately, I quickly realize that it was talking about the external USB drive not being available. For some reason, F7 is unable to load USB devices at startup so my fstab entry that mounted the /dev/sdb* device failed since /dev/sdb* doesn't exist! This seems to be a pretty serious bug in F7.

Boot with the DVD again, I went into repair mode and commented out the entry in the /etc/fstab and restarted. It continued with the load and failed when it tried to start X. I had it retry the XConfig for my nvidia card and had it use the open source nv drivers which brought up X. I tried to switch to the nvidia vendor driver and it also failed resulting in me going back to the nv driver until after I did an 'yum update' to pull the latest changes.

'yum update' also had some issues. There was a FC6 package (kdebinding) that were more recent then the F7 ones and it confused yum so I had to first remove the FC6 package. There were also some i386 package installed along with the x86_64 ones that had to be removed in order to get past the dependency checks.

Once I got all the latest updates, I was able to reboot into Fedora (still no USB support at start-up) everything seemed spiffy except that for some reason the nmb service was not enabled to start up at boot which resulted in my windows machine not being able to find my shared drive. This was annoying but once I figured it out was easy to fix.

It wasn't a painless upgrade and I'll have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed after my good experience with FC6. The USB drive issue is big although for now I work around it by manually powering off-and-on the drive after Fedora boots and then manually mounting it to where I want it to be. [Update] Instead of reconnecting the external drive or powering it off-and-on, I ran 'modprobe usb-storage' which will get Fedora to recognize the device so that I can mount it where I want. For some reason, Fedora on start-up does the same thing but gets a "module not found".

There are some other bugs such as the firewall settings not taking into effect even after you "apply" and "ok" the changes. Hopefully these things will get resolved soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My Camera Equipment

I've had some time to play with my new camera and it's been fun getting back into photography especially with such cute subjects! While video is the latest craze there is a something nice about the simplicity of photography. Like Chess, the rules are simple but it is hard to master.


My starting equipment consists of the Canon EOS 30D body which has turned out to be an excellent and responsive camera. It feels solid in my hand and since I don't expect to upgrade my cameras often I was willing to spend a bit more to get a good quality camera. I've been able to capture some excellent baby smiling pictures and that is enough to make the camera worth it. :-)


Along with the 30D, I got the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II (amazon). This seems to be THE starting lens to have. It performs very well and the price is excellent (~ $80). If I went with only one lens this would be the one and for most pictures is the one I use.


I got the Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II also to be able to get those long range shots. This lens is also priced well compared to other lenses at ~$230. Some might feel the 105mm range is not enough and I can understand that. Sometimes I do wish for a 200mm lens, but that's for another time. ;-)


On the recommendation of friends, I bought the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 for indoor shots. This lens costs more then the others at ~$400 so it required more deliberation. It's a nice lens to have, but the previous two lens should cover most basic needs.


Along with a new camera bag (~$60) and some lens filters (~$40 total), this completes my base set of camera equipment.