Sunday, August 26, 2007

Canon EOS 40D


The latest toy from Canon is the new EOS 40D. I'll just have to admire it from afar... :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lowepro Compudaypack Dimensions

For the backpack I reviewed here, the dimensions are: 11.4W x 53D x 5.5H (camera compartment), 12.2W x 1.8D x 15.9H (notebook compartment), 12.6W x 5.5D x 11.4H (top daypack department).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lowepro Compudaypack

Finding the elusive "perfect" bag is like a never-ending quest. When it comes to computer bags, I've settled on the Waterfield Cargo bags for its convenience and durability. The bags are sturdy and the notebook is easily accessible from the top without having to open up any flaps which makes it really convenient when going through airport security scans, but I wouldn't call this the "perfect" computer bag. The bag can get a little heavy and with it being a messenger style bag it slings over one shoulders so it can put a lot of weight on that one shoulder. When the notebook is inside there aren't a whole lot of additional room (maybe the large size is better, but I only have the small and medium) for things other then some books, magazines, or papers, but the outside pocket is pretty roomy for smaller accessories. I wish it had the option where I can carry it on both shoulders like a backpack.

For my camera gear, I bought the Canon bag because I wanted one bag that can be used to organize my gears. For that purpose, it works very well, but my recent trip showed me that it isn't very practical for plane travel. The bag can be very heavy and bulky and having a baby, backpack and camera bag at the airport just makes traveling difficult. For traveling, I also don't need to bring everything which means with one bag I'd have to leave some gears out loose when I take the bag.

1455 (click to see larger image) Canon camera bag.

2136 (click to see larger image) Inside of Canon bag with my gear.

So I decided what I need is a combination computer and camera backpack that I can use to carry just the camera gears I need along with a notebook and still have room for magazines to read on the plane, accessories and baby's emergency supplies. There is a surprisingly few number of camera bags for "everyday" use and combinations of notebook+camera bags are even less. One of the first that I was able to find was the Lowepro Compudaypack. This bag seemed to fit the bill as it is designed to be lightweight and has compartments for both a notebook and camera gear. My initial fear was that it didn't have much room for anything else. A friend of mine went through the same exercise of looking for a combo bag and he chose the Crumpler Sinking Barge.

The Crumpler looked like just what I was looking for and seemed very spacious even after loaded with the computer and camera gears, but at $180-$190 it isn't cheap. I was at a local store when I saw it had the Compudaypack and I eagerly checked it out. The bag turned out to be roomier then I expected and it did feel very light. At $80, it is less the half the cost of the Crumpler and you can find it on-line for $50. It became a no brainer to get try the Lowepro first.

The Compudaypack looks pretty much like a normal backpack and is basically a notebook backpack with a compartment underneath to hold the camera gears.

2142 (click to see larger image)

The various padding allows it to keep its form, but I didn't feel it to be bulky when I put it on my back. The camera compartment is large enough to hold a camera (in my case a Canon EOS 30D with battery grip, eyepiece extender, and a 28-105mm zoom lens attached), a couple of lenses and a flash. It comes with pads so you can rearrange the layout of the compartment to fit your needs.

2139 (click to see larger image) Compartment after I changed the configuration around.

2115 (click to see larger image) Holding my gears.

2118 (click to see larger image) Zipper.

Even with everything inside the compartment, I didn't feel anything poke against my back when I carried the backpack and the bag still felt pretty light. The gears fit in snuggly and the padding is not bad although I would swing it around or just drop it on a hard surface.

The laptop compartment doesn't have a strap to hold the notebook although a 17" notebook would probably fit pretty tightly anyway. I tried a 15" IBM Thinkpad and it was a good fit although the Thinkpad has that hand grip on the back that make it a little bigger. The compartment also has a pocket for magazines. Overall the compartment is not that big so the lack of a strap to hold down the computer might be ok since there's not much room for the notebook to slide around anyway. The compartment is padded on all sides to help keep the notebook safe.


The third compartment is for general stuff and contains a number of pockets to help organize small accessories. The flap has a larger pocket for cables and wires.

2121 (click to see larger image)

2124 (click to see larger image)

The base of the compartment is padded since it is the top of the camera compartment. The front of the backpack has a small compartment for a mp3 player. The shoulder straps are padded and each has a Lowepro Sliplock attachment loop to hook a water bottle, lens case, etc. to.

2133 (Click to see larger image) Notice the loop on the shoulder strap to hook accessories to.

So far I like the Compudaypack. The durability seems good although I need to use it awhile to test it. I guess I should try to take another vacation to really get to use the bag!

The dimensions are: 11.4W x 53D x 5.5H (camera compartment), 12.2W x 1.8D x 15.9H (notebook compartment), 12.6W x 5.5D x 11.4H (top daypack department).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Playing with Picasa

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I got introduced to Apple's iPhoto software on OSX. I thought it was a decent piece of software, but a bit basic for me and there were a couple of minor bugs. My trip did show me that I probably should use something to help me manage my digital photos as my collection has gone past hundreds to thousand(s), so once I got back I tried out Picasa. Picasa is a photo management software that was bought by Google and then released free. I heard good things about it including that it was a better iPhoto then iPhoto. It runs on Windows with a Linux version in beta.

My experience so far with Picasa has been good. It is as simple as iPhoto and has the same basic functionalities. When it is first installed, it asks you if you want it to search your computerfor all graphics files (pictures and movies) or limit the search to the "My Documents" folder. I wish it allowed me to enter a different location since I don't keep my photos there For some reason, PNG files aren't enabled by default, so you have to enable that yourself.

Overall, a neat program with a great price. If you take a lot of digital photos and need a quick, fast and easy program to management those photos then definitely give it a look.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

modprobe usb-storage works

One of the problems I had with Fedora 7 was that it couldn't automatically detect my external USB drive on start. I had to either manually run 'modprobe usb-storage' (or turn the drive off-and-on) and then manually mount the drive after it finish booting. This weekend I grabbed the latest kernel package and the bug has been fixed! I can now put the mount entry back into /etc/fstab and have my drive loaded and mounted automatically.

It took a little bit longer then I expected for Fedora to fix this bug, but now that it's ready I'm happy. :-)

Dust on Camera Sensor!!!

I went on a trip recently and it was the first trip where I had my EOS 30D with me to take pictures with. Half way through the trip, I began taking pictures of the scenery including the sky and clouds. I uploaded the photos to a computer to look at it that night and noticed some "smudges" on the pictures. It turned out that some dust and lint fibers has gotten into the camera including the camera sensor. Never having had this problem with my film SLR, I didn't really know what to do. The only cleaning item I had with me was some Kodak lint-free lens paper (which I suspect caused the lint fibers to get introduce into the camera in the first place when I used it to pick up some dirt that got onto the view finder).

I went online to find out what to do. The first page I found was Bob Atkin's article on CMOS sensor cleaning for the EOS 10D. It is a good article that described the problem, how to detect whether you have dust on your sensors and ways to clean the sensor. Of course, reading the article also scared the heck out of me 'cause I would rather not send my camera off to the service center, try to clean the sensor myself and risk damaging the camera, or just pretend the problem doesn't exist.

Regardless, the first thing I wanted to do was to check to see where all the dust particles are and instead of taking another picture (it was already night time), I just took an existing image and set the contrast to be high to make the dark spots more noticeable. Then I took off the lens and with the lens paper I carefully had it pick up just the two major pieces of lint that was on the sensor (Go to the 30D's menu and next to last is a "Sensor Clean" option that will close up the mirror so you can see the sensor but make sure to turn the camera to "Off" when you're done otherwise the cover to the sensor doesn't close.). I barely had the paper touch the lens for fear of causing scratches.

When I got home from my vacation, I got myself a blower bulb and proceeded to pump as much air into the body in hopes that it'll get the dust particles off the sensor. The article felt that this method does very little or would just moves the dust around, but I noticed that on the 30D the walls of the lens compartment has a little bit of stickiness to it which would allow it to grab onto any dust that flies around. After about 10-15 blows from the bulb, I was able to get the dust off my sensor and now everything looks good.

During this experience, I learned a few things. First, dust is common especially with digital SLRs since it doesn't have film that is rolled along and pushes away dust. Second, go with the blower first and don't give up after just a few tries. Some people suggests turning off the camera before switching lenses. I'm not sure if that does anything, but why take the chance... I'm fortunate that the dust that got on the sensor wasn't too stuck on and the blower method was enough.

Finally, go to YouTube and search for sensor cleaning to see actual videos of people cleaning their sensors to get an idea of what to do.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Air Travel

I recently came back from a trip where I flew on one of the major carriers (American) instead of a low-cost carrier such as Southwest. While I've read the troubles that plagued the airlines, I didn't realize how bad flying has become until I flew American. When it comes to low-cost carriers, I don't really think about the flight. It's like riding the bus or transit... it's just a mode of transportation. This is not a good thing to have your transportation be something you remember after your trip (imagine if your summer vacation is dominated by memories of that long painful drive). It could be that I don't expect much service on these flights and that is why it seems like the flight attendants are typically friendlier and happier, but on the major carrier the attitude is different. They want to distinguish themselves as higher then "low-cost carriers" at the same time that they reduce service and quality to below that of the low-cost carriers.

They try to be more formal, but because the service is subpar it just makes the flight uncomfortable. On my flight, I was asked by the flight attendant to step back 6 inches since I crossed the invisible line between coach and first class, and besides the fact that the flight only served a couple of drinks or sell you food the attendants somehow had to keep walking up-and-down the aisles throughout the flight so nobody can stand up.

In the end, flying the major carriers doesn't leave you with the feeling of having had a good flight. It doesn't even leave you feeling neutral and not noticing it. It is now decidedly un-enjoyable and unpleasant.

Harry Potter

The final Harry Potter book (#7), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was unleashed to the public some 10 years after the first volume was published this summer. Since I had started the series, I felt compelled to finish it much like how I ended up seeing the third Matrix movie or Star Wars Episodes 1-3 (although I did think that Star Wars got better as it moved along). It's a quick read that took me about a day and half to finish and I was going to write about it earlier but didn't feel motivated to.

Reading this series (especially in the later volumes) is like watching an TV episode. J.K. Rowling describes the scenes like a screen play and fades them in-and-out like sitcom. I started expecting to read into a commercial. It reminded me of reading George Lucas' Star War novels (I'm a Star Wars fan btw) which didn't have much details or character development. The power of George Lucas wasn't his ability with prose as much as he was able to create a world in our minds that allowed us to fill in the magical details. Similarly with Harry Potter, the beauty of the series lies in the world that exists in our imagination and far from Rowling's writing style.

What really bothers me about reading Harry Potter is how Rowling uses so many pages to attempt to describe in excruciating detail Harry's emotional turmoil and troubles while regulating the supporting characters' trouble to a few simple lines even though they are suffering similar (if not more) then Harry. It always felt to me that Harry's friends sacrificed more for Harry then he did for them, but their troubles are trivialized in comparison to Harry's.

Harry Potter is worth a read because it is part of our pop culture, but don't expect too much especially in the later volumes. Even as the length of the books grew to extremely lengthy (wasn't there an editor?) it is a quick read so check it out and find out why kids are walking around with a lightning bolt drawn by markers on their foreheads.