Archive for December, 2009

Phonetography .. the best camera ?

One of the most famous quotes about photography that I have ever seen, was on the site called IPhone as Art.

“ The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

Searching for a Snowy Owl

Just as writers just write something anything to keep their skills sharp, photographers also need to practice all the time. Well for most practical purposes it is not very simple carrying around an SLR camera around with you to shoot photos and to practice. So the humble mobile / camera phone has taken over the place of the scribble pad for photographers. And believe it or not, its not just good for getting photos of that scandalous MMS, but also amazing photos. Most of these sites are for pictures taken with iPhone, but my Nokia N95 is not far behind either.

The camera phone photography has become more than just a visual notebook, a journalistic record of events or a way to send friends photos of your dog. While most photographers will claim that they simply fell into shooting with their cell phones, saying, “What the heck, I’ve always got my phone with me,” it has rapidly evolved into a legitimate tool for artistic expression and has even shown up in commercial outlets, such as Robert Clark’s commissioned book Image America, shot entirely with his camera phone.

Have a look at these amazing sites based on the Mobile camera photography.

iPhone

Nokia N95

You might also want to check out this comparison between the iPhone camera and the N95 camera. Definately worth visiting. http://n95mobilephone.wordpress.com/2007/12/12/nokia-n95-vs-iphone-photos/ and also the Apple micro site for Nokia N95 photography awards ?????? http://web.mac.com/jamesburland/Nokia_Creative/Blog/Entries/2008/2/7_Photo:_The_Nokia_Creative,_N95_Photo_Awards_-_January_2008.html

This brings us to another site that mentions the best camera is the one in your hand, check out also : http://www.thebestcamera.com/

My humble addition to this list that I dare not add here are on facebook in the album phonetography. Check it out here.

Engineering … what is it ?

To put it in short

Engineering is the application of understanding.

An engineer encounters a problem, researches the causes, investigates ways to remedy the problem, and then designs and implements a solution. I always thought that the engineering course that we all undertake is not really about the subjects that you are learning. Well not 100% at least but definitely is to kindle the part of your brain which is responsible for Analytical thinking. And after going through the grueling 4 years of the engineering course, I think that I really have got only that from the college.

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I mean not a disregard to the lecturers who tried their very best to get the subjects into my head, but its a testament to what was the course material that they had actually picked for the course. Frankly, COBOL for programming, nothing to do with present day circuits and instrumentation techniques that were used in manufacturing over 10 years ago. Thats not really ideal, having said that, It is still that information that definitely  triggered the analytical thinking part of my brain.

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Over time I have tried to answer the question “Why do I enjoy doing what I do so much?” and have finally realized that it’s not one particular aspect.  Instead, it’s the process as a whole.  For an engineer, a project is a complete scientific discovery from start to finish. Curious about the problems, Learning how to solve it, Understanding the pros and cons of the solution, expressing it with sketches and finally applying the solution to the problem. Interestingly though, I have just found that even most of hobbies that I engage in all follow this progression.

  • Photography – Curiosity of looking at light and frames
  • Gaming – directly involves lot of problem solving skills
  • Paper craft – well am still a novice, involves 3D modelling of paper
  • Blogging – Just started blogging seriously

In almost every way, I think these are simply different names for the same thing. Engineering in its basics provides us engineers a lot of joy just to see even an unconventional solution working. You can check out this site for a lot of such haphazard solutions which are not ideal but do the job nevertheless : http:/www.thereifixedit.com. Named appropriately.

The world according to ….

I am quite certain that most people have seen this map titled, the world according to the United States of America, the stereotype of the Americans towards most of the world is quite legendary. It is hilarious, although offensive to a few. Found this here.

Interestingly I also found this other sketch made by an Indian, showing the world according to us, the Indians.

Well you can check his site out here. Thanks to both these guys for these awesome infographics.

How to hyper activate your USB Thumb Drive

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Nearly everyone of us carries around a flash drive with some of our important information with us. But flash drives have evolved, not only are they now growing in capacity and speed. But with a small push from the software industry the humble flash drive will play an important part in the whole cloud computing phenomenon. As applications move from computers to the cloud, it is quintessential for the applications of the desktop to move around a bit as well, with the user I mean. The applications that cannot (at the moment) be realized from the cloud need to be for the user to be able to use. They also need to essentially provide another important feature i.e. not to leave any files on the host computer once you take them to your friends place. This is essentially something that separates a normal application from a portable application.

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How did I get into this is also an interesting story, I work on a construction site and IT facilities there can be a little poor. Like restricted internet access for an hour a day with ridiculously slow download speeds. Anyway, the company where I work is considerably large and the IT department there had issues with things like virus on machines being transferred from USB drives, people installing malicious software accidentally etc. So they decided to have a restriction on installing anything on the computer. That started some issues with inaccessibility to software, legitimate open source software included. In that scenario I was forced to use only the software on that computer like, internet explorer (of which I am not a big fan) and Office, no image editing tools etc. I had to work on a few image editing assignments as well as could not stand to use Internet Explorer. I wanted either Chrome or Firefox, firefox being the second choice. So like always necessity is the mother of all inventions and finds. Well in that scenario I tried to look for software that I could use without installing it, and walla a whole new world of portable apps greeted me.

The portable application suites that are available are built in such a way that you do not need to actually worry about your information being left on another computer, you plug in your USB into another computer, run the application and once your work is done; remove the USB and you are done. In fact there are applications that keep the data in the USB encrypted so in case you lose the USB drive the person who finds it will definitely not be able to see any information that is on the thumb drive.

If you have not been looking at the portable apps world, you will be surprised to see and know the vast libraries of applications that are already available either official releases from the companies who are making the software themselves, like firefox portable etc, and then there are unofficial releases done by Portable Application enthusiasts. Most of them work like a breeze. Essentially portable apps are available as individual applications but for starters or to better organize the portable apps on your thumb drive, it is better to use an application launcher like portableapps.com, liberkey, or geekmenu. Then there are those that come preloaded onto USB drives like the U3, which comes standard on all Sandisk drives; which although are not open source but definitely free with their drives.

Today not only do you get portable applications but also complete Operating systems that are portable on USB drives called Live USB. In fact windows 7 can be ported into your USB to make a portable windows 7 OS Drive.  Well enough spoken about these nifty tools, let me just add some links for you guys to check them out.

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These flash drives  make a great Holidays present to your geek friend also 😉 Load in one of the above mentioned portable app launcher and some apps for a great surprise. In case you cannot find your favorite application yet, then you can in fact create your own. Package factory is a portable application creator for the U3 launcher system. They claim that they can convert any application into a portable application, let’s hope it works. Check out the Package Factory here. Some of my favorite tools on my USB drive at the moment that I really use would be, Gimp portable, Sketch Up portable, Chrome Portable as well as Firefox portable, VLC portable, Picasa 3 Portable, Keepass portable, Thunderbird portable, Sunbird portable, convert All portable and last but not the least 7-zip portable.  Most of these from the POrtableapps.com launcherAll awesome tools that let me do a lot without having to install them on my machine.  Have also installed recently Opera tor portable which helps me access Flickr at work, which is essentially blocked in the UAE. Although I have to admit, for the one hour of slow browsing, Opera Tor is not really ideal. I hope someone makes a good chrome extension to mimic the performance of tor.

Infographics – Information and Graphical Design

I have a big fascination for information display and design, especially after I started working on the company presentations for my previous employer. During preparing presentations I always would get stuck with that page that needs to have a lot of information within a small space and with clarity. And would always come across these images mostly in newspapers, magazines and in various websites called info graphics which did exactly that. So what exactly are these info graphics ? This is what wikipedia has to say about them :

Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. They are also used extensively as tools by computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians to ease the process of developing and communicating conceptual information.

What sparked this post you ask ? I was looking for information about plastic bottles and what a big hoax it is (my thoughts about this another time) and I came across this awesome info graphic from onlineducation.net about the bottled water.

They have other interesting info graphics about A day in the internet, talking about the data exchanges over the internet through the social web. There is also this interesting piece about why Americans are fat ? 🙂

The interest for info graphics has spread wide and far, even to the extent that google made use of infographic (baloon comic) for their launch of Google Chrome. One of the most famous examples of info graphics is the London Metro system. Timelines, Data maps and even recipes … well I think you should check out more info graphics, see below.

If you find this interesting then you should definately try out googling “infographics”, it will bring up great resources for the images.

Check out some of these great videos about infographics as well :

And my personal favourite : The Did you know series

Useful Links apart from the Google search :

Leaner and Meaner fighters

While at the Dubai Airshow this year I had a chance to check out the latest in military aviation technology. Well not really the latest but about the closest that was available for people to see. Anyway, from the B1 bombers with the awesome “Master of disaster” B1 bomber to the latest fourth generation F22 stealth fighter everything was there to be scrutinised by press and end users alike. The flying and stationary displays of the aircrafts were not only the displays that were there. It was more and that included in the airshow. The technology display pavilions were amazing as well.

But after a long and exhaustive day at the airshow, I really began to wonder the relevance of the aircrafts. I mean considering the last few years where more than countries going on full blown wars, we have seen smaller gueirella terrorist outfits that make use of imilar technologies as field american personnel. There is a bit of a level playing field considering that in order to engage in combat with these guys one would need to be on the ground and in their lairs. It is definately not as simple as two aircrafts going head to head in open air for a full blown dogfight. In these circumstances is the military fighter aircraft kind of loosing its relevance ?

Fighter aircraft are increasingly required to justify their expense by adapting to new roles and capabilities. Even so, fleet sizes continue to decrease. Despite still forming the backbone of advanced air forces, the size of many global fighter aircraft fleets is on a steady downward trajectory. Simultaneously, this reduction in the physical numbers of combat aircraft coupled with emerging operational requirements has necessitated an expansion in the mission set they are capable of undertaking. Aside from traditional tasks such as defensive and offensive counter air missions, today’s fighters are increasingly required to be accomplished at providing close air support and strike capabilities as well as contributing to intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance efforts.
The future structure of the USAF’s fighter fleet is currently one of the key issues facing the Pentagon and the new administration of US President Barack Obama, with the White House looking to reduce its defence budget while simultaneously remaining engaged in two foreign theatres. As a result of these dual demands, the USAF has been placed under increasing pressure by the Pentagon to focus upon providing capabilities relevant to continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, this mentality appears to have shifted attention from the air-superiority mission if current fighter procurement plans are examined. Moreover, the geography of future fighter programmes seems likely to change over the coming years. Despite European, Russian and US dominance in the current global fighter market in terms of market share, a shift away from these traditional centres of fighter technology, although minimal over the next 15 years, does appear to be taking place.
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So, I think the airshows in the next few years is going to consistently move towards civilian aviation technologies and not military technologies. So the last few goldern years of military aviation technology is available for us to view through the air shows. Lets make the most of the airshows then.

Dubai Airshow 2009


F22 Flyby, originally uploaded by mister_jester.

An HDR attempt at F15, originally uploaded by mister_jester.

The Break Up, originally uploaded by mister_jester.

I was recently at the Dubai Air Show and Man was it awesome. Here are some pictures from there.

Have a look at the complete set here.