gear for the revolution

You’re looking at an Olympus E-P2 with a 15mm body cap lens and a 14-42mm EZ pancake lens. That small round item with the hole in the middle is the Olympus LC-37C auto open lens cap which screws onto the front of the pancake zoom. The E-P2 was introduced November 2009, five months after the E-P1, Olympus’ first µ4:3rds camera. I paid full price for the complete kit which included the original M.Zuiko 14-42mm collapsible kit lens and the VF-2 electronic viewfinder, which slid into the hot shoe at the top of the camera. The key advance of the E-P2 over the E-P1 is that an expansion port was built into the back side of the hot shoe, which allowed for additional capabilities like the VF-2 to be added to the camera. The camera is now so old it qualifies in some corners as a vintage camera. The only up-to-date part of the kit is the pancake zoom which was introduced January 2014 along with the OM-D E-M10 Mark 1.

The question is why go back to something retro? Price and availability. The cost of new contemporary interchangeable digital camera are skyrocketing. While I would love to own a new Olympus OM-D E-M1, the eye watering high cost of US$2,000 is more than my budget can bear. To put that cost in perspective, I can either have the E-M1 Mark 2, or I can remodel one of my bathrooms. Throw in one of those new zooms, such as the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO, and I’ve now got enough money to remodel both bathrooms.

Other reasons for turning back to this camera (and a Sony NEX 5N I also own, but picked up when it was heavily discounted a few years back) is that it still works, it’s compact, and looks like a lot of point-and-shoot cameras that are still be used extensively around the world. As used gear it’s dirt cheap. The large 13 x 17mm sensor in the body doesn’t hurt either, since it is considerably larger than the sensor in every cellphone being made. The final, most important reason for using a camera like this, is that it’s capable of documenting this strange dark world we’ve moved into since Trump was elected. Loosing it or having it get busted won’t set me back an inordinate amount of money. It’s simple and rugged enough to meed my needs for a set of tools that I can use to document who knows what over the next four years (at a minimum).

What can this camera do? With the body cap lens, a 15mm (e30mm) at f/8, I can literally point and shoot and get everything in focus from 3 ft/1m out to infinity. Or with the pancake zoom, I can zoom into the equivalent of 84mm on a 35mm camera for that short zoom effect if I need to keep back and avoid a confrontation.

Or pop the 15mm on the body and just document the world around you without drawing undo attention.

Even at f/8, in low light, the E-P2 is capable of grabbing something decent at ISO 1600 (it can go higher) that can be used, especially on the web. And if you want, you can set the 15mm to closeup (0.3m) and get down a bit close to your subject.

Olympus’ digital Pen’s aren’t the only game in town. Sony’s older NEX series of cameras, especially the 5 series, are an excellent little carry around camera, especially if matched with an inexpensive prime like the older Sigma lenses.

I picked up the NEX 5N when it was on closeout a few years back, and I happened to pick up a Sigma two lens set, the 19mm and the 30mm, for $99 each at about the same time. To give you an idea of relative sizes, the Apple SDHC to Lightening adapter is in front with the 5N’s SDHC card plugged into it. Which brings up an interesting point. I use an iPhone for just about everything now related to photography, from taking the photograph to processing it and then pushing it out to various social channels such as Smugmug and Instagram. The Apple adapter allows me to move images off the card and into the phone for post processing.

What is significant now is that iOS 10.2.1 is capable of knowing when you’ve taken your camera photos in RAW and can actually show you what you have directly on the cell phone once they’ve been imported into your camera roll. In the past I couldn’t process RAW anything unless I had a personal computer and software, such as Lightroom, that knew about how to interpret those RAW files. I discovered today that my iPhone with iOS 10.2.1 can read raw files from both the Olympus E-P2 as well as the Sony NEX 5N. How it handles newer cameras I can’t say. But for what I need, I don’t need the latest and greatest, just something from the last 8 or so years that still works. Here’s two examples from the same RAW file produced by the Sony. The first is post processed by VSCO, the second by Snapseed.

While both VSCO and Snapseed knew they were dealing with RAW files, it was Snapseed that post processed the photo as it was shot. I’d set the Sony to shoot 16:9 aspect ratio. The VSCO app didn’t honor that aspect ratio, choosing to revert to the full 3:2 aspect ratio. Furthermore, mirrorless cameras embed metadata in every file that allows the post processing software to correct for lens flaws, such as barrel distortion in the 19mm. If you look closely at the VSCO image you can see it. It’s properly corrected in the Snapseed. Whether the second is better than the first is entirely up to the viewer. I personally prefer the brighter color from the VSCO processing (which was what I was going after), but if I had to make sure it was “more correct” then I’d probably run it through Snapseed. By the way I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary with Snapseed. I just accepted its defaults when it first read it in, and then immediately saved the JPEG back out again.

In the past I put together several mirrorless kits, with multiple bodies and lenses. Today, I’ve narrowed that down to a single body and one or two lenses. Furthermore, I’m doing everything on my iPhone because it’s now powerful enough and the iOS apps are sophisticated enough. For the citizen journalist who wants a bit more on a budget than just the camera on the phone, the latest iOS release coupled with a reasonably up-to-date iPhone (SE through 6 and on up) can help you build a powerful documentation system without the need of a notebook or even a tablet to handle the output from any mirrorless camera made in the last eight or so years.

my current personal pet peeves with ios and the iphone 7 plus

I’m using the iPhone Upgrade Program to keep me up-to-date with, well, iPhones. I started using it when I switched in 2015 from the Samsung Galaxy S4 to the iPhone 6S Plus. Along with the ability to exchange for the latest iPhone every year is the inclusion of Apple Care in the price. I’ve used Apple Care once, for my wife’s iPhone, when she broke the screen when dropping her iPhone. It cost $30 to repair. Because I started in early November, I upgraded my 6S Plus to the 7 Plus in early November 2016, before I left for Japan.

When I got to Japan I discovered I couldn’t find cellphone coverage anywhere, unlike the 6S Plus. Normally I keep my phones in airplane mode because I don’t want to pay AT&T’s exorbitant international roaming fees. But I do like to turn it on right after I land to get my phone’s time synced up with the local time. The last trip I managed to sync up via free public WiFi at Haneda, along with my Apple Watch, so that wasn’t an issue. After getting to my hotel I did a little digging, and you guessed it, I have a Model A1784, the iPhone with the Intel modem, not A1785, the model with the Qualcomm international modem. To rub salt into the wound, the Intel component has much inferior performance to the Qualcomm model. Qualcomm appears to perform about 30% better than Intel, especially when downloading data.

That wasn’t the only issue I had in Japan. I stayed at the Hotel New Otani Kumamoto. The New Otani had excellent WiFi performance, probably the best I’ve experienced to date in Japan. That included the ability to stream video from services such as Netflix, which in the past had always been a pain due to regional segmentation. This time it seemed to work. The issue I had was with apps running under iOS 10 that required I log into repeatedly, such as the Guardian, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, WordPress, Google+, Google Hangouts, and even Twitter from time to time. And those are the apps I remembered. I’d log in repeatedly, about once every 24 hours. In several cases I deleted the apps; this included the beta version of the Guardian app and LinkedIn. I re-installed the regular Guardian app and logged back in, but changing out the app didn’t solve the problem. All I know is that, for whatever reason, I had to log in repeatedly into apps from my iPhone 7 Plus. I also had my iPad Pro with me as well, and it exhibited similar behavior, but not nearly as often.

Once I returned home back in the US, that behavior stopped. I don’t know if that was due to timezone issues (I was 14 hours ahead of Orlando), or some other issue. Maybe it was tied into the fact I got my time sync via WiFi, and not the mobile network. I just don’t know. But I was well and royally pissed off.

I don’t know what I’ll do, let alone can do, from this point forward about the app behavior, but as far as the modem issue is concerned, I intend to head back to my local Apple store and push to get my iPhone 7 Plus switched out for the version with the Qualcomm modem. I won’t put up with such limitations with my smart phone, especially overseas. That issue didn’t exist with the 6S Plus, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to put up with it with the 7 Plus. I can live without the headphone jack, but not international capability. And not from Apple of all people.

As for Intel, this is the straw that has broken the metaphorical camel’s back. I’ve had all I intend to take from Intel as a device provider. My interaction with Intel goes back decades to the 8080, when I discovered I got considerably more value using the Z80. All the way up through the 286, I found I got better performance and capabilities if I used Harris or AMD CMOS versions of the 286; Harris with low power, AMD with higher clock speeds. And then we’ve all had to live with Intel’s x86 market manipulation. Yes, I know I have an Intel i7 in my MBP, but that was a necessary evil I was willing to put up with.  The fact that there is Intel content via a critical component in my iPhone 7 Plus is something I won’t put up with. And to be brutally honest, once Apple releases an MBP with ARM, I’m switching, and I’m not looking back. As an engineer and a user I’m doing everything I possibly can to marginalize Intel by specifying anyone else besides Intel in my designs, and making sure any electronic product I purchase has little to no Intel content.

powershell on a mac

Powershell on a Mac

Powershell on a Mac

tl;dr – Microsoft open sourced Powershell. Source, installable packages, and instructions for installing it or building the repository are on Github.

In case you missed it, Microsoft has open sourced its Powershell “super” shell. Right now it’s an alpha release, with all that that implies. And for those who care about such things, it’s released with the MIT open source license, not GNU. You can either grab the sources via git and built it yourself or you can download pre-built installation binaries. I chose to the pre-built Mac installation package to quickly get something up and running. I don’t have a lot to add to the conversation at this point as I’m certainly no Powershell guru. But from what little I do know about Powershell, it all appears to work on my Mac. In the example shown here I’m running Powershell in iTerm2, a better alternative to Apple’s Terminal. Perhaps future releases will be able to create a shell without this intermediate step; it would be nice.

Since upgrading to Windows 10 it’s a tiny bit ironic that I’ve been spending a lot more time in Powershell than I have in prior versions of Windows. What probably pushed me towards Powershell was my eventual dissatisfaction with the Windows Linux Subsystem and its inclusion of bash. I am not a bash fan, and find little to like with any of the other Unix-like shells (csh, tcsh, ksh, zsh, etc, etc). I’ve used all those other shells because that’s all you’ve got. I haven’t gotten excited about a shell since my days of using 4Dos on MSDOS and OS/2. I personally would like a common powerful shell environment across all my various operating systems, but somehow bash and its ilk are not it for me. Since source and instructions for building the repository are available, I’m toying with the idea of building Powershell on Arch Linux ARM for the Raspberry Pi. More to come on that, perhaps…

contemplative photography

I’m working with every camera I have in my possession as much as possible, especially the camera built into the iPhone 6s Plus. Both of these were taken using the iPhone within walking distance during lunch today, one at a local Wendy’s and the other at a Pollo Tropical. I’ve been influenced in part by Miksang contemplative photography, and more significantly by Matthew Robertson of Toronto Canada. It’s Matthew that got me interested in reading the Miksang book “Looking and Seeing.” I’ve tried, on and off, to follow the philosophy but it seems I don’t quite get it. I certainly appreciate the work of those that do, such as Matthew.

Regardless, there are times in Florida where the broad daylight is glorious. This was one of those days, and I happened to see these two perspectives. In a way I don’t care if their “official” Miksang or not.

another reason why i switched to an iphone

The Verge has published an article with the damning fact that only 7.5% of active Android devices are using Android Marshmallow (6.0.1). This on he cusp of the next Android software release in two weeks, version 7 or ‘N’. Android 6 is the version I have running on my aging 2013 Nexus 7s, and it is those two Nexus 7s that are the only Android devices I actively use. All other devices, specifically the Samsung Galaxy S4s my wife and I replaced with the iPhone 6S+ are sitting in a drawer, totally discharged by now. And stuck on some version of Lollipop (5.x). Which, according to the Verge article, has nearly 36% of those Android capable devices.

It only goes downhill from there. Android Gingerbread (2.3) still has 2% and change of all of those devices. The last time I used a Gingerbread handset was my HTC myTouch on T-Mobile, and I switched to AT&T and the Samsungs because T-Mobile at that time would not update the HTC handsets and did not have the latest and greatest Android handsets for sale at that time. When AT&T came calling with their more comprehensive plans and handsets it was a no brainier to switch.

Unfortunately two-plus years with Samsung on AT&T, with it’s oddball software updates and the would-they-or-wouldn’t-they-update-at-all eternal question finally pushed me into the Apple camp. I have repeatedly commented on how Apple keeps its iOS software up-to-date on a regular basis across all devices. It might not be perfect, and there are those who say that Android, especially Android 6, is far better than iOS 9. But I’m not in the mood to buy one new expensive handset after another just to get the latest Android release. Google itself made an promise that starting with Android 5 (Lollipoop) major new releases would run without impact across all devices if they are least could run Android 5 to start. I’ve seen that promise delivered on my 2013 Nexus 7s that uypgraded OTA from Android 4.4 to Android 6.0.1. Unfortunately Samsung with AT&T stopped at Android 5 on the Galaxy S4. I was certainly no fan of the S5, and didn’t care all that much for the S6’s features either. When the S6 came out looking like a clone of the iPhone 6, I figured I might as well go buy the real thing. Especially when it was revealed that the Apple iPhone 6 was less expensive than the Samsung Galaxh S6.

I don’t care how good Android is compared to iOS. You can’t get the latest releases with fixes and new features unless you commit to a purchasing a new Android flagship phone (or one close to it) every 6 to 12 months. With  Apple I have the knowledge that my iDevices will all be automatically updated to the most current release.For example my iPad Air 2, purchased November 2014, has upgraded automatically from iOS 8 to iOS 9.x, all when it was supposed to. It runs as well now, if not better, than it first did with iOS 8. In the short time I’ve had my iPhone 6S+ it’s also upgraded, on the same day as my iPad, to the same version. Timely upgrades and having the latest to run on my iDevices is a key feature I won’t trade away it purchasing another Android device. I don’t ever see Google fixing this problem.