Photographing Fireworks

The Fourth of July is nearly here and I saw some tips online that seem trustworthy. I’ve shot fireworks very successfully in the past with my own techniques. This year if we see them I’d rather just enjoy them more with my family. But here are some tips if you’re curious (William Yu).

  1. Use tripod to secure the camera.
  2. Set the camera to Manual mode.
  3. Since fireworks will be at infinity(focal distance), set aperture to F8 or F11 to obtain the best optical quality of the lens.
  4. Set shutter speed about 2-8 seconds. Opening the shutter too long will cause over-exposure of fireworks.
  5. Use a cable release to minimize the camera shake.
  6. Set the focus mode on the lens to manual, and set the focus ring to infinity. Thus, avoiding the “focus hunting” in auto focus mode.
  7. Try both telephoto and wide-angle lenses, use telephoto will isolate a single or a cluster of fireworks, use wide-angle to include the cityscape or other interesting background.
  8. If you listen for the “thump” of the really large canons shooting the bigger fireworks, you can count to 2 or 3 before they burst. Get the timing right and click shortly before the fireworks go off (pointing at the right region obviously) to get the maximum exposure time with bursting fireworks in it.
  9. Many fireworks shots you see are composites of multiple shots. So unless you have gone to a real mega-event where they have the money to really fill the sky, don’t be shy about compositing shots together. At smaller local displays you will probably be close and therefore shooting steeply upwards against the dark sky. This allows for very easy cut out and paste combinations of shots.

It’s time to clean up…


It’s empty now… but it won’t be for long.

My recent domain transfer and renewal got me to decide to clean things up around here… this subdomain is so screwed up right now that I cannot upgrade my WordPress installation and I couldn’t be bothered to perform a manual installation.

I have my main domain which contains nothing but old cruft  that simply does nothing but rot.

I have an apps subdomain which is required to serve as support for my deployed iOS application development by Apple. I plan on maintaining that – it’s in decent shape.

My plans are as follows (for the few visitors I may get at any time – or more likely solely for my own benefit really)…

  • Backup my main domain and clean it out. It will serve me as a forking landing page for all the subdomains and perhaps an about and contact form. Simple as that. There is stuff dating back to 2001 in there.
  • Polish up the subdomain – make sure it’s clean of any file clutter and button down the hatches.
  • Update the subdomain – and have that serve as the sole location for blog posts. There isn’t much there at the moment, so this should be pretty peaceful.
  • Clean out the subdomain. There is a lot of stuff there – much which I will migrate to the blog. Here will reside UI/UX design and presentations. I will also link up repositories. This will be more like a development gallery than blog. I can for-see some overlap with the blog in this regard however…

Thank you Media Temple!

When I originally got into the website thing for myself back in 2001 I registered my domain with a company in Australia. I’m not sure why I went that route, but it happened. When private registration became available I went with it. Each time the name came up for renewal it was quite expensive – the private registration didn’t help keeping costs down either.

Recently I was informed it was time to renew again and the cost was again really expensive. I tried to do an online payment begrudgingly and it didn’t go through. Visa thought it suspicious to have a big charge to an Australian company. I had to call the company and get my card turned back on. I told them I would be making a purchase in Australia.

I sat there and thought to myself, “Why am I doing this? I should transfer this domain and save some money and headache.”

I popped into my Media Temple account center and saw there was a tool called Domain Mover. For $25 they do all the work of transferring the name over to MT. My domain was unlocked but I had to turn the private bit off on the domain name. Once I did that they took care of the rest. After several days they now hold the domain registration and also renewed it until next year.

Billing is automatic so I don’t need to sweat domain expiration again. I’ve been very happy with Media Temple hosting – and this service they provide is over-the-top as far as I am concerned.

Thank you Media Temple.

Airplay adapter in the news

If you’re not yet aware, the guys at Panic found something recently. Check that link and read up. It won’t take too long. What’s pretty cool is the comment someone left. That’s pretty awesome if true.

Airplay is not involved in the operation of this adapter.

It is true that the kernel the adapter SoC boots is based off of XNU, but that’s where the similarities between iOS and the adapter firmware end. The firmware environment doesn’t even run launchd. There’s no shell in the image, there’s no utilities (analogous to what we used to call the “BSD Subsystem” in Mac OS X). It boots straight into a daemon designed to accept incoming data from the host device, decode that data stream, and output it through the A/V connectors. There’s a set of kernel modules that handle the low level data transfer and HDMI output, but that’s about it. I wish I could offer more details then this but I’m posting as AC for a damned good reason.

The reason why this adapter exists is because Lightning is simply not capable of streaming a “raw” HDMI signal across the cable. Lightning is a serial bus. There is no clever wire multiplexing involved. Contrary to the opinions presented in this thread, we didn’t do this to screw the customer. We did this to specifically shift the complexity of the “adapter” bit into the adapter itself, leaving the host hardware free of any concerns in regards to what was hanging off the other end of the Lightning cable. If you wanted to produce a Lightning adapter that offered something like a GPIB port (don’t laugh, I know some guys doing exactly this) on the other end, then the only support you need to implement on the iDevice is in software- not hardware. The GPIB adapter contains all the relevant Lightning -> GPIB circuitry.

It’s vastly the same thing with the HDMI adapter. Lightning doesn’t have anything to do with HDMI at all. Again, it’s just a high speed serial interface. Airplay uses a bunch of hardware h264 encoding technology that we’ve already got access to, so what happens here is that we use the same hardware to encode an output stream on the fly and fire it down the Lightning cable straight into the ARM SoC the guys at Panic discovered. Airplay itself (the network protocol) is NOT involved in this process. The encoded data is transferred as packetized data across the Lightning bus, where it is decoded by the ARM SoC and pushed out over HDMI.

This system essentially allows us to output to any device on the planet, irregardless of the endpoint bus (HDMI, DisplayPort, and any future inventions) by simply producing the relevant adapter that plugs into the Lightning port. Since the iOS device doesn’t care about the hardware hanging off the other end, you don’t need a new iPad or iPhone when a new A/V connector hits the market.

Certain people are aware that the quality could be better and others are working on it. For the time being, the quality was deemed to be suitably acceptable. Given the dynamic nature of the system (and the fact that the firmware is stored in RAM rather then ROM), updates **will** be made available as a part of future iOS updates. When this will happen I can’t say for anonymous reasons, but these concerns haven’t gone unnoticed.

Three cheers for Pure Hockey in Berlin, MA

Recently I’ve gotten the bug to play pickup hockey at Loring Arena here in Boston. I used to play pickup at the Ice-o-plex in Pittsburgh and I had a blast. That was 10-15 years ago. Since then I wasn’t playing and then our hot water heater ruptured in our old house and flooded the basement – and most of my gear was ruined. Since I want to start playing again soon… I needed to buy some stuff.

I recently ordered some stuff (a helmet, elbow pads, and slash guard) online before knowing about Pure Hockey in Berlin, MA. I took a drive out there with my son and initially drove past the place because I didn’t think the store could be as big as the building we saw. The store is enormous and has two floors packed full of great equipment.

I checked out the Easton that Chris Kunitz likes – I think the price per stick is around $250. They have several thousand dollars worth of sticks – of just that type. Overall they must have several thousand sticks on the floor – ranging from affordable to high-end pro-level stuff. You can say that of just about anything you can think of.

Anyway, I got a ton of stuff I needed (compression pants, pro socks with velcro tabs, pants, tape, Vapor One.4 stick <kane/77 – should have gone with 100>, etc). The store marked nearly everything down initially and they recently had a 20% off sale on top of that. My previous skates (which survived the flood) were too narrow and the bottom of my right foot (my problem sizing foot for skates) used to cramp up on the bottom. I’d have to simply skate through the pain.

Well – today I went alone to check out skates. I got my own salesperson and told him my situation and my budget (around $200). I initially picked up a Bauer Vapor and he told me that skate sizes narrower and to avoid it. I checked out other Bauers (Supreme) and a Reebok something or other for around $475. My left foot never has any problems with fit with boots, but my right always gives me fits. After trying on many skates, we discovered that I need a little more room in the right toe box or else there will be pinching on top up front. I tried on the Reebok’s and they felt absolutely perfect – yet out of my price range.

I was about to settle for a Bauer that pinched a little bit and cost a little over $200 with the sale and 20% off. We tried one more skate, a Bauer Supremem One.5 – and it fit me perfectly and after sale & 20% off only cost about $150. The guy sold me skates that absolutely fit me for a lower price than what I was prepared to walk out the door with. It’s not a super high-end skate but looks nice enough and won’t kill my feet. I want to spend more time having fun and skating than grimacing with a foot that’s cramped up and hurting.

There is nothing at that store you won’t be able to find – and at amazing prices. Take a little drive and save yourself shipping and handling. It’s nirvana.

Eureka! Mac & IOS Communication

fooGetting a Mac OS X application and an iOS application to communicate with one another has been the bane of my developer existence for several years now.

I have made several attempts at getting it – and I may have come extremely close in the past only to give up and toss the projects.

I’ve been able to get multiple different iOS applications to communicate over Bluetooth and it’s served me well in many instances. But that elusive iOS to OS X thing hung over me like a cloud filled with human-processed refried beans. However I am happy to report that the cloud now contains daisies (not filthy feces) and has released it’s pleasant bounty on my developer brow. Problem solved.

I finally have an OS X and iOS application that connect using Bonjour and communicate with one another over Wi-Fi. This is a big box that I can now check off my list of developer things to do outside normal projects.

Many of you might be thinking to yourself, “What’s the big deal? That should have been pretty easy!” Well, I am and continue to be a bit of a networking apprentice. It’s never been my strong suit, and I’m sure it never will be. I love being able to get things to talk with one another by various means, but when it involves networking I panic a bit. I stumble. It’s the least fun part of what I might be doing.

I do however want to understand how it works, and I dig into StackOverflow, Google, developer documentation, etc. looking for answers to certain things. And then learn from what I read and attempt to implement them – trying to understand what’s going on under the hood. I don’t like to just copy and past a bunch of code that works and not want to learn about why it works.

Anyway – I am really happy today.


Tower. A fantastic GIT client for OS X

If you’re a developer on OS X and you’ve used GIT before or plan on doing so in the future, you owe it to yourself to download and try out Tower. It’s promoted by fournova as easy, efficient, and powerful. And it is really is all of those things. $59 and worth every penny.

I’ve browsed and .zip downloaded many GIT repos but that was a pretty lazy and irresponsible way of going about things. Shut out of updates and I wasn’t sharing any repos on github either. Tower opens all of this up in a very, very nice way. Kick those tires and enjoy!

It would be nice someday to have such a client able to handle subversion as well and work with both GIT and subversion repositories. Have that bit invisible to the user unless they wanted the actual source technology exposed. For subversion I use Versions. Versions is also $59 and worth every penny.

The castle at Tulum

It took me a while to build the model out of compressed, laser-cut wood pieces – mostly because it was a chore to find the actual pieces and match them to the instructions. But it’s now complete. I plan on placing some Arduino-controlled LEDs inside in various places and of various hues with some flickering based on the available light in the room. Should look pretty boss.

Wooden kit purchased in Mexico - part of a series of which I also have El Castilo from Chichen Itza.

Wooden kit purchased in Mexico – part of a series of which I also have El Castilo from Chichen Itza.

Standing close to the edge of the cliff on the east side of the inner precinct, it was built in different periods. The oldest part consists of two platforms that supported two galleries with a flat roof reached by a central staircase.

Later the center of the building was filled in, the staircase was extended and the east wall built. This produced a new base where a temple was erected with two vaulted rooms, three entrances, and a lintel supported by two serpent-shaped columns with their heads on the floor and their tails above.

Tulum Ruins

The facade has three niches, the central one containing part of a Descending God, and there are two stucco masks on the corners. The portico and shrine have benches, and the vault is shaped like the cross-section of a bottle. Finally, two oratories were built, one at each side of the bottom of the staircase.

Stucco masks wrap round the corner of the main, west-facing facade of the Castle between the two cornices. They have open mouths which bare their teeth, large stylized eyes and feather headdresses.

Radium 3

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 9.53.20 AM
Radium 3 is available in the App Store for $9.99 until February 19th. I pop around from Spotify to iTunes but I also like Internet Radio from vTuner. But I use a browser to get at those. I listen to music all day every day. I never tried Radium out – and reading the recent reviews about it not working anymore I was hesitant. But I pulled the trigger.

Initially it wasn’t playing anything and there really isn’t a browse for it… you kind of need to know what to look for in advance. I can favorite stations, but I don’t see a Favorites list anywhere instantly viewable. So while it’s not perfect, it is streaming stuff for me. I like how it’s tucked away up in the menu bar.

We’ll see how this goes. I want to like it more than I do.

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 1.44.23 PM

Now that I’ve used it for more than eight minutes, I have found things I missed before – notably what happens to the things I favorite. If you clear the search field, those items appear in the autocomplete list. Many stations take a while to initiate actual playback, but I don’t believe that is any fault of the application itself. I have a wide open pipe here, but sometimes latencies get introduced depending on the origination of the stream.

Update 2:
I added the update above before realizing that someone from the CatPig team actually (somehow) found this post about Radium 3 (Google filter perhaps?) and commented to me know about the Favorites list.

  1. It’s very cool to have a comment from someone on the development team. A honor really. Much like the responsiveness from the people working on Wunderlist.
  2. I personally might add a widget row below the text field and the autocomplete list – to allow for some more direct things. I don’t know if they have the capability in API to generate a full list broken down by location (eg. I might want to look at available stations in Paris or Krakow and drill in), but it’s an option I might like and use often.
  3. I’ve noticed a bug (I think) when I search & the autocomplete comes up, I click on it to play – and I get a spinner for a long time. I abandon that station and click to play on another – and the first station continues to try and connect/buffer and the second doesn’t attempt to play until I click on it a second time.