Finally! A Digital Photo Camera

27 May 2006

My wife and I drove up to my hometown of Weiser, Idaho for my baby sister Kayla’s High School graduation. On the way north, we stopped at Best Buy and took a look at the HP Photosmart E317 digital photo camera. I bought one on sale for only $89 (plus tax) and we got back on the road.

Last night, I got home from Washington, D.C., Virginia (a.k.a. Alexandria; hehe) at about 11:30pm. Before going to bed, I grabbed a small bite and watched a little TV (for 10 minutes or so) while eating. There was a Best Buy ad on TV for the HP digital camera, which is why I wanted to check it out.

I’ve only taken a couple of pictures, so far, but they’ve turned out quite well. It’s very easy to use, which is good since it doesn’t come with a “real” user’s guide (like I would need it, I mean, come on! :) ). It’s a 5MP camera, producing images at 2560×1920 resolution (quite a bit better than what you get with 35mm film). It also found all the photos that were on the 512MB SD card I’ve used with my digital video camera (it will take stills on SD or discs). I have almost 600 photos (at 1280×1024) on there already and the camera says that I can fit another 314 (at 2560×1920) on before I fill up the card.

My Dad recently bought an Olympus photo printer. I plugged the HP Photosmart E317 into the printer with the USB cable that came with the camera, surffed through (on the camera) and picked out 3 pictures and hit print (on the camera) and in about 2 minutes I had 3 photos on real photo paper. The quality is excellent, too.

Overall, I can definitely recommend this camera to others, especially while it’s on sale at Best Buy for only $89. It even comes with Lithium batteries and a carrying case that can be worn on your belt.

A word to the wise, though: if you have or are going to purchase a digital photo camera that uses SD cards (or similar) get the high speed kind. You’ll be thanking me later when you see how long other people have to wait before taking another shot. The 512MB SD card I am currently using is of the standard speed variety, and it takes about 8 seconds to finish writing a 5MP JPEG to the card. Thankfully, this camera has 16MB RAM, so I can take a few photos in a row and let it write them to the card in the background (if I’m not waiting for the flash to recharge). Still, I wish I had a faster card for these cameras.

Some other nice features:
- You can record audio
- You can record audio notes about a picture while browsing through them
- It can take video
- When plugging it into your computer, it can be configured to show up either as a storage device (SCSI disk, like an SD card reader), or as a camera which you could use with video conferencing software.

No, HP is not giving me anything for plugging this camera. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Blah, blah, blah.



The Real McCoy

23 May 2006

This week, I’m working at the United State Patent & Trademark Office. On Monday, I had some time to myself during lunch and walked around the halls of their classrooms floor. Outside the door of each is a display mounted on the wall, talking about a different inventor (or inventors), their patent(s) and how they affected technology & society.

This one in particular caught my eye, so I took a picture of it with the camera in my cell phone.

Elijah McCoy, the son of former slaves, worked for the Michigan Central Railroad as a fireman. His duties included lubricating engine parts. McCoy invented his automatic lubricator. Soon, long distance locomotives, transatlantic ships and factory machines were using his lubricating invention. His reputation spread, and users were wary of buying cheap substitutes. As a result they often asked for “the real McCoy.”



Movie Review – M:I3

13 May 2006

Tonight, my wife and I went to see a movie. We didn’t know what we were going to see before we got to the theater. We decided on the third installment in the Mission: Impossible series of films.

It was good. Charlotte & I both liked it. Some of the “plot twists” were completely predictable to me (I don’t know about her, I learned to not wreck it for her by asking, “Have you figured it out already, too?”), but I still enjoyed learning the details.

The only thing that bothered me was that it felt like the story ended a little too soon. I thought there were a couple of threads left hanging that shouldn’t have been left behind like that. They are not elements that hint at another movie or even seem to try to make a point. However, I won’t spoil the film for those of you who have yet to see it. I’ll say just this: the one big unanswered question at the end of the film is not on this list; I was not bothered by that at all. In fact, I thought it was a bit fun to never know.

So, I would say that if you enjoyed the first two movies, then it’s a good bet you’ll go for the third. There are a couple of great scenes that you really want to see on the big screen at least once, but not so many as in the first two films. However, if you felt that M:I2 was not as good as the original, then I think you’ll be pleased with M:I3; it brings things back up, though I still feel that the first film was the best of the three (so far).



WARNING: High-Quality Phishing SPAM Ahead

9 May 2006

If you think you already know what I’m going to say, please, don’t stop reading here; I may surprise you.

Most of those who will read this already know the dangers of trusting the kinds of email messages like the one I just recently received with the subject line “Your account might be compromised!”, which prompted this post. However, many who read this blog are not of the “technically savvy” or “computer expert” types, so I thought these comments might be useful.

Rule Number 1: NEVER take any email message from a company that deals with money (like banks and credit unions) at face value. That simple rule will protect you from most Phishing attacks.

The Phishing scams use all sorts of tricks to make their emails look legit. This latest one even employed the technique of having someone who actually speaks English write the text. In the past, one very big indicator that an email might not be from the company it claims to be, was the bad translation from some other language to English before it was sent out.

Another common tactic is to send HTML email. This allows the Phishers to create links like [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing ]. The link looks like it points to the correct website for your bank (for example), but actually goes somewhere else. Unfortunately, these can be hard to expose if you use Internet Explorer, Outlook, Outlook Express or some common web based email systems (like Hotmail & Yahoo!).

If you visit such fake links and you use Internet Explorer, there are several techniques the fake website can use to make it look like it is the real website. For example, there are dozens of still not patched bugs in IE that let a web page dictate exactly what you see in the address bar. So, while you are actually at “http://192.0.2.5/www.chase.com/login.jsp”, IE’s Address bar could show, “https://www.chase.com/login.jsp”, thus making it look more legitimate. Of course, you got there by clicking the link they gave you in that HTML email.

Rule Number 2: Don’t trust HTML emails. Too much stuff can be hidden.

HTML email has many other problems as well, like being able to pull in code or images that actually tell the sender that their email has been read while completely hiding this fact from you. That let’s the spammers know that you’ll read their SPAM.

I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just leave you with a few, simple thoughts:

1. There is no Nigerian Oil Money waiting for you to transfer into your account (money laundering schemes)
2. That’s not Viagra they’re putting in those bottles (generic drugs fraud).
3. You do not need to buy OEM software. (pirated copies).
4. eBay & PayPal (or, for that matter, any bank or credit union) never need you to “verify” or “validate” your account (Phishing).

And, last but most certainly not least:

5. The world will not fall down around you if you don’t immediately forward that chain mail (viruses).



WordPress URL Bug Fixed

4 May 2006

To all of those who read my last post on the Utah Open Source Planet and saw a request to make a decision regarding an OpenBrainstem SSL certificate, I’m sorry.

It turns out that WordPress, the blogging software we use for OpenBrainstem Member Blogs, had a bug in it. In the piece of code that finds and converts “smiley” text to icons, it was using the wrong URL. It should have used the URL for the blog site, but instead was using the URL for the admin and authenticated users access (like login) site.

I’ve fixed the bug and will be sending a patch (it’s a one-liner) to the WordPress developers. Hopefully, it’s included in the next release.