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Happy Thanksgiving

Just want to wish everyone a happy thanksgiving / happy black friday :-)

Mine was good, sand the kids weren’t too crazy this year, which is nice.

Some photos later..


Solaris and disks

Solaris is not very good when it comes to dealing with broken hardware. Sure there is the fault management framework, but that does not mean that the problem is always detected by it. Instead sometimes you have a dead or dying disk drive that spams syslog with annoying messages until you physically unplug the drive from the system. This is what happened to me recently with our live storage system which is based on Solaris.

Thankfully, pulling the drive did fix the error messages from appearing, but then I had to do a format of the disk to make sure that it was OK.

The basis of the Solaris kernel has some really well tested code, but it seems that a misbehaving driver can cause all sorts of problems. This is also seen when a disk is dying and you do a zpool status and it takes forever for the info to come up. It’s a shame that is the state of things right now.

Leica M9 - The M8, only much better.

Category: MattRecommends


They added in a soft-release shutter mode which changes the way the shutter release operates, to make it easier to take longer-exposure pictures. They have 16-bit uncompressed RAW files now, which allows you to see the full Dynamic Range potential of the CCD sensor (Kodak made, I think). Higher ISO settings work much better then the M8.2. For more info the M8.2, take a look down on this blog for my Japan trip, which tells all about it. :-)
I recommend the Leica M9...IF:

  • You like rangefinders
  • You don't mind a heavy camera
  • You can afford the insane price
  • </ul>

    If you don't meet these three pieces of criteria, then this is probably
    not the ideal camera for you. If it is, then this is definitely the camera for you.
    Leica has taken the M8, and put in a full-frame sensor, which delivers stunning photos.

    Leica has addressed some of the handling issues with the M8, adding a
    ISO button to make switching easier.</td>

American Express - Matt does NOT Recommend

Category: MattRecommends

I’ve been using American Express for 10 years. It was the first card I got as a student - the Blue for Students card. I think it was actually something else when I got it. In any case, I’ve always been a fan, because of the rewards program. Well, they killed one of the rewards I wanted - the Skip Barber High Performance Driving School, but made up for that in I was able to use the points for ANA Airlines, and fly business class to Japan for dirt cheap (relatively, lol). But that’s the positives. The negative is that they are wholly unsupportive of me, as a long time card member. I have to pay fees to have the Gold card as well. They took away my pay-over-time feature as soon as the market started to go sour. This month, they were not willing to extend my payment deadline an additional 10 days, as there’s been a lot of stuff going on this month - property taxes, my grandmother has had eye surgery which wasn’t covered, and some computer trouble. I called customer service, and ended up asking ‘what did this call do for me?’ after telling them I was having some trouble with paying, and being told they could do nothing for me. They said ‘not much at all - it just lets us know why you’re not paying.’ I will say they mentioned as long as you get it in before the end of the billing cycle, which is 15 days after the due day, you’ll be fine. This unfortunately was 5-7 days too little for me ( I needed 2 pay checks). They sent me a link for a survey, where I told them they were being unrealistic in this economic climate, and I was appalled at their lack of help. I was able to make the payment, on time, but using money I had hoped not to use.

It’s clear that American Express is just like any other bank, and I will not be using them much in the coming months, and will close my card within 3 months when I get on top of my others more.

Amazon Kindle

Category: MattRecommends

Today I’m writing to recommend the Amazon Kindle. There are two versions, one with WiFi only:

and the Wifi + 3G (Sprint) version:

There are a few devices out there to read books on. However, none are quite as good as the Kindle.
The nook is very similar, but the screen does not refresh as quickly as the Kindle. The iPad has a very large disadvantage (as does other Tablets) in that the screen is LCD based - in other words, light is coming out of the device to you - and is stressful on the eyes. The Kindle, on the other hand, is reflective, like paper, and therefore is easier on the eyes, and allows you to read longer.

Another cool invention that the Kindle has is WhisperNet…With the 3G version that’s how you download the books to the device, or get newspaper content on the device. It also keeps the page you are on in sync across devices - multiple Kindle devices, a PC reader, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, or even the iPad.

Whether or not to get a e-Reader in the first place is a question you’ll have to answer on your own. It’s much lighter then carrying multiple books. The electronic versions of the books are not perfect - they sometimes have spelling errors for example.

For more information about the screen of the Kindle vs the iPad - see this article:
Kindle vs iPad under Microscope


Work is extremely stressful, I need a vacation. My uncle just hit my car and scratched the bumper, too. Thankfully, at this point, I don’t care. But it’s annoying, nevertheless.

More coming

Category: MattRecommends

More coming soon, and I do apologize for the formatting of the article not being the best; I’ve never exercised this blog software well enough before, so please bear with me :-)

Windows Phone 7 - The Samsung Focus

Category: MattRecommends

If you’ve not moved to a smartphone yet, this may be the chance for Microsoft to earn their place to be in your pocket - if you’re on AT&T or T-Mobile. Or not in the US. The CDMA based providers Verizon and Sprint will not be getting phones running Windows Phone 7 for a while.

For those in that situation, I recommend Android. These are your best bets for that:

<table columns=2><tr><td colspan=2 align=center>Sprint</td><td colspan=2 align=center>Verizon</td></tr>

<td align=center>No Keyboard</td><td align=center>With Keyboard</td><td align=center>No Keyboard</td><td align=center>With Keyboard</td>


Updated: While I like the HTC EVO (I own it) and the Samsung Epic (which has an iPhone-like skinning on it), on Verizon the Samsung Fascinate, which is a Galaxy S phone (this is good), gets my vote. I originally had the Droid X, but I think the Fascinate would appeal to more people. It’s also a bit more open then the Motorola devices, which is more in line with the idea behind Android - a customizable, open platform. With a keyboard, you have The Droid II, which I don’t feel is as good as the original Droid, but I don’t think they sell that any more online. Used is your best bet for that.

Windows Phone 7, on the other hand, is brand new. I've used it, and I like the ideas very much. The whole paradigm of information at the top is very powerful, and pretty easy to use. It has a few quirks though, mostly in the web browser. I expect them to be ironed out fairly quickly. The Samsung Focus, which is what I used, is extremely responsive to your inputs. It scrolls super smoothly, and looks great with the Super AMOLED screen. The colors are rich and vibrant, and it's definitely bright enough.

This is the main screen. As you can see, the interface is very simple. You put your most important items here, and you can easily get information about what’s going on. The icons will update with the latest information - so the calendar (not shown) will show the next appointment, the people icons shows content updated from your friends, missed phone calls on the phone icon, etc. As the commercial shows - turn on, get info quickly, turn off. It works fairly well I think. Note you need a Windows Live account for all the integration stuff to work, though it’s not necessary for using the phone or email and messaging functions. Windows Phone 7 has a lot of potential, and I think it’s a good 1.0 for a totally new OS from Microsoft. I’m looking forward to seeing the CDMA offerings….

PogoPlug - Funny Name, Good Product

Category: MattRecommends

Today I am writing and recommending the Pogoplug Multimedia Sharing Device. What this does, is allow you to fairly easily get content you have onto the Internet for yourself, friends, and family.

You need an external hard drive. Two good options are:

Western Digital 1 TB External Hard Drive

Or, if you don’t have as much content to store:

Western Digital 500GB External Hard Drive

After getting a hard drive, you can simply copy files like you normally would. Then you’d put it aside, and take your pogoplug out of it’s box. You plug in the power cord, and plug in the network cable into your router (same spot your computer plugs into for the Internet). You go to, and follow the instructions. It takes 90 seconds. Then you plug in the hard drive to the Pogoplug, and you will be sharing files within minutes. What’s really nice is when ever you update the content, the persons you are sharing it with are notified, so you can easily keep family up to date with the latest photos of your children, for instance.

It also streams your music to your BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, or webOS (Palm Pre, Pixi) device. I am using it on Android, and it works pretty well.

Amazon has good prices, please use the links above should you wish to purchase anything, as they help support this site.

An Additional Direction

Category: MattRecommends

I’ve thought about a way to make this blog more useful, and I’m going to start writing here my recommendations for items that people ask me for often, or devices I use myself.

Watch this space, as it will be very interesting I think!

It's been a while

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this. Work is ever-hectic. I’m pretty tired, and need some time off soon. I’ve been trying to get a Ruby on Rails app working on Bluehost, and that’s been a exercise in frustration. It works in a test setup, but no way that I can see how to make it work in a way that can serve more then a hit a second. I’ve spent probably about 9 hours on it, and I’ve concluded I need to look somewhere else for it, or re-write the app in something else. Not sure what I want to do yet.

My Experience with Adorama's Used Dept. (Pt 1)

First I must let it be known that up until now, I’ve had very good experiences with Adorama. That being said, I had only purchased new from them.

Recently I decided that I was switching from my Canon Rebel XT to a Fuji S5 Pro. The Fuji uses Nikon-mount lenses. Therefore, I would be getting rid of anything Canon related.

I had used the online quote forms of both B&H, and KEH. They gave similar prices, with KEH being slightly higher. Then I saw Adorama had it, and in their pamphlet in the store, said that they give the most for used equipment. So I filled out a form online listing my Rebel XT, the kit lens, and my 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, and got a call back.

The person I dealt with told me to come down, and if the equipment was in the condition that it was described, it was worth $600, and that Adorama would give me at least 70% of it’s value. This is very ambiguous to begin with, and unnecessarily confusing. The values were near what B&H and KEH were offering. Considering Adorama had a Fuji S5 Pro, listed in Excellent condition, I thought that would be the place to investigate more.

Upon arriving to Adorama, I was told to ask for another person, the one who ran the used counter. I did, and explained that someone had given me a quote and told me to come in. I displayed everything on the counter. I also said that I had two Rebel Ti film bodies, and a Sigma 28-70 lens.

I was then told, that yes, I would get 70% of the value, and then 8% on top of THAT value if I were to use it for store credit towards a purchase. So the XT and lens were worth $420. The 2 Rebel Ti were worth $30, and the Sigma lens was worth $10. Within a couple of minutes, everything was in plastic bags. I need to point out that at this time, I showed the person who ran the counter that there was film in one of the Ti bodies. I told him the batteries were dead, so I couldn’t get it out. I was told not to worry.

I was then shuttled over to another rep, who would ring up the transaction. While this was going on, I forgot about the Ti bodies. More on that later. The S5 arrived from the back, and it looked fine, though the battery seemed dead. I also got a spare battery, a lens, and an extended warranty. I asked if all the used items were inspected and cleaned, including the sensor, and was told they absolutely were. They couldn’t find the rest of the items (aside from the body), right away, so I waited a few minutes, and then was told to go to the cashier, and they’d make sure I got everything. As it was getting close to the end of my lunch hour, I did so.

They found the accessories (they thought it had a box, and was looking for that), I paid, and was on my way. As I was about half-way back to the office, I realized I didn’t get my film back from one of the Ti bodies. I wondered if they’d call me (they have all my customer info), and let it go, as I wasn’t sure what was on it anyway.

After charging the battery, I took a few shots, and realized that the sensor was NOT cleaned. Thankfully a bulb blower was able to resolve that without any issue. Work has been very crazy the last week or two, so I didn’t have much time to play with it. I had noted that S5s on EBay were going in the $600-$1000 range depending on condition. When I looked at the maintenance counter, I was shocked to see 31,000 shutter clicks. For something listed as Excellent, this was not what I expected. Looking again on Ebay, those items were closer to the $500-700 range, not $869. For that price, I was seeing 10,000 or less shutter clicks. My 70-300 lens was also worth much more then expected, given it’s age and how much I paid for it.

I contacted customer service via the web site the next day, and was told I needed an order number to do anything. Um, I was just there, are you seriously telling me you can’t look it up by customer name, in this day in age? It was infuriating. Given that I was at work doing this, and the receipt was home, this just made for more delays. As soon as I got home, I emailed the order #s. Then I heard nothing. So I went to the store that afternoon.

My Experience with Adorama's Used Dept. (Pt 2)

The used counter guy totally didn’t recognize me. For only two days ago, chatting for about 15 minutes, I was kind of surprised. Yes, I understand they’re a popular store. But two days is not a long time. I explained the situation to him, and had examples of three completed auctions on Ebay with various amounts of shutter clicks, conditions, etc. and said that the cosmetic condition does not match the internals physical condition, which is more important. As such, I wanted a price adjustment. We had a back in forth about mark-up of a brick-and-mortar vs Ebay, and that I shouldn’t compare, etc, etc, at which point I said that I wasn’t arguing that Adorama would be higher - just not THAT much higher.
He asked what I thought was fair, I said $120. If they had done that, I would not be writing this. Instead, he checked with his boss, and I was told to return the camera. I said I wanted my equipment back, and was told that was not possible, as it was now in NJ. That also would have kept me happy. However, since all they could do was give me the money for the camera, here I am. I also mentioned the film that was in Ti body, and was told “we don’t check for that” - which I found particularly funny given that I TOLD HIM about it when giving it in.

Summary: I got a terrible price for my 70-300 lens, they never got back to me about the film in the camera (the Ti bodies and the Sigma lens were probably trashed), and refused to budge on the S5 Price.

Their error: Not realizing it’s much easier to keep an existing customer happy, then to get a new one.

My error: Not checking EBay pricing before hand. Had I, I would not have sold the lens to them.

Result: They have lost me as a customer, and I’m writing this to let everyone know that their used dept. is incredibly inflexible. For a company with a mission statement of “NOBODY DOES IT BETTER” they certainly failed at their mission. I highly recommend B&H over Adorama now. As it turns out, the Mack camera warranty they sell also has a bad rep on the Internet. So what happened with getting an S5? I went on to, and found one. 11,000 shots, spotless, used as a backup, one owner. $825. CHEAPER then the Adorama body, better condition, local in NJ, so no shipping, and more usable life on it.

Purchased an Fuji S5 Pro

Well, I made the jump yesterday. I sold all my canon SLR equipment, and am now shooting with a Fuji S5 Pro, which is based on the Nikon D200. No more 70-300 zoom. For now, 2 lenses, and 2 lenses only:

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 (still deciding if I like this)
Zeiss 35mm f/2 (On order)

That will get me an equivalent field-of-view of 53mm and 75mm, due to the 1.5x crop factor. The S5 is light-years faster then the S3, even when shooting Raw and set with Dynamic Range to Auto. This allows you to recover highlights that would otherwise be done for on a normal CCD or CMOS sensor. It’s pretty unique stuff.

Noise-wise, it seems better then the Rebel, which is good. As long as it gets me from 800 -> 1600, between that and the fast primes, I should be in pretty good shape. It does do up to ISO 3200, but it’s very noisy there, as would be expected.

The only downside is it has 30,000 shutter actuations, which is higher then I would have expected for the price I paid, but it’s clean, and has a 2 year extended Mack warranty on it too, which I don’t think I could have bought if I got one off EBay.

Next items will be the 70-300 zoom, and possibly the Kodak SLR/n.

Here’s some sample output from the Fuji with the Nikon f/1.8:

Flower shot re-creation attempt

DxO Optics Pro Quick Test

I’ve given it a quick test (6.2) with both my Canon Digital Rebel XT, and the Fuji S3 Pro.

Testing a Canon shot @ ISO 800 with my 70-300 lens, shows that the noise reduction is just like anyone else’s. I don’t see anything out of this world really.

With the Fuji, it was significantly noisier then what Lightroom can produce.

For optics correction, it’s still a awesome program. But for pushing my camera’s high-ISO abilities…I’ll pass.