December 28, 2002

Advogato Entry 296

Thought I'd post a note (mostly for the search engines out there) that the FujiFilm FinePix A303 camera works with Linux (as a USB storage device, at least). The camera can be configured in a "PC Camera" mode, but that doesn't work with Linux yet (the manual says that only works with Windows (XP?), and won't work with MacOS either). I was somewhat worried, as this camera uses xD-Picture Card media, rather than CompactFlash or SmartMedia.

Anyway, I guess my computer was set up for USB already, so I just had to mount the camera, which was a simple ``mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /camera'' I decided to add a line to my /etc/fstab so I can just ``mount /camera'' to make it easier to copy images onto my laptop.

I've been thinking that I should try to find a way to automatically mount and unmount the camera when it is plugged in and unplugged, but I suspect someone has done that already. I had the thought that most of these filesystems have pseudorandom serial numbers on them (well, unless you get preformatted media, which often all have the same thing, which can lead to data corruption in certain situations). Anyway, you could make it so different serial numbers get mounted in different places. Any of the cards for your camera show up on /camera, while your MP3 player shows up on /boombox or something.

I just want something that does it automatically, because I always forget to unmount before unplugging the camera...

Posted by mike at 10:27 AM Central | Hardware , Old Advogato Diary , Photography , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2003

Advogato Entry 297

Sort of fixed a problem that I was having with Debian's murasaki package where it would basically hang on startup (when /etc/init.d/murasaki start was run). On my desktop, some initialization programs were not working right. They were trying to execve() something that didn't exist, but the programs were written under the assumption that the execve() would never return -- which is normally the case unless there's an error of some kind.

The program was made to fork() before each execution, so I'm just lucky the software didn't explode in my face as a fork bomb. I guess it just ended up being a "fork fire," as it didn't get out of control, but there were about 15 processes going at any one time..

I haven't found anything to automatically mount/unmount my camera and other USB/FireWire devices like I want, but I suppose I haven't looked all that hard yet.

I got a little pissed off about binary-dependent, pseudo-open-source software the other day after my X server died after an upgrade. I need to get a new HALlib module in order for my second head to work again. Matrox hasn't updated their driver packages for X 4.2.1 yet. Supposedly the precompiled files on their website should work for 4.2.1, but they don't work for me (causing the console to get toasted). I could also recompile stuff myself, but X is just too big a package for me to handle..

Matrox apparently doesn't have too many problems releasing specs for their boards, but the HALlib stuff apparently has to be binary-only because the software interfaces with chips that Matrox got from other companies, and they don't want specs released..

Hmm.. It occurs to me that there is code in the kernel framebuffer driver that allows you to activate the second head on the G400 (and probably some other Matrox cards). It's unaccelerated, if I recall, but I might have to look into whether it's possible to get that code to initialize the second head so I don't have to deal with this again (or, get stuck with a slow head, rather than just one head and a blank screen next to it).

Makes me wish I could start a "nice" hardware company that releases specs and decent documentation, doesn't use chips and stuff from other companies that don't like to release specs, uses good standards where possible, etc.. Sounds nice, but the profit margins are probably too thin in the PC industry to pull it off. Maybe it's possible.. I just keep running into hardware at every turn that isn't fully workable under Linux. Even my new camera, which I'll probably recommend to friends, is only half-working with Linux -- you can get files off it like a USB hard drive, but you can't use it as a webcam (though you can get decent Linux-compatible webcams for <$20 anyway..)

It's just annoying when you look at what works and what doesn't in your system, and you realize you really only have half a computer...

Posted by mike at 07:54 PM Central | Hardware , Laptop , Old Advogato Diary , Photography , Software , XFree | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2003

Silly Images

I went out for a late lunch today and got some Chipotle. Saw a few unusual things. Someone had a Segway parked and locked on the sidewalk about a block away from Chipotle -- first time I'd seen one in person. But, it wasn't moving, so it wasn't too interesting..

Before I went in to get food, there was a guy about a block down the street that had been stopped by the police. They were all still sitting there when I left, which is pretty bad.. They must have been there for more than 20 minutes.

I wandered down Main Street and saw some nice greenery. I thought it was so nice that I wandered back to my place to get my camera and take some pictures.

I took some boring pictures of stuff, and then started seeing some geese while I was on Nicollet Island. I wandered around some more, and spied some geese swimming in the river. Then I saw some baby geese!

I tried to follow them and get better pictures, but there was brush in the way, and there appears to be some construction work being done on the island. I walked around to a different part of the island to wait for them to swim by, but they had other ideas and came up on land to meet some other geese and rest, I guess.

hee hee.. fuzzy..

Posted by mike at 04:10 PM Central | Photography | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


In joyous recognition of my newfound disk space, I bring you big pictures. Some of them look cool, and others are kind of FYI.. Two of the coolest pictures are campus at night (1.2MB) and flaming Dan (1.2MB).

Posted by mike at 06:10 PM Central | Photography | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 26, 2003


Took a wander around Nicollet Island today, and filled up my camera's memory card with pictures. It was nice to get out and see some greenery and the river, though it wasn't very easy to shake the nagging thought that I was probably within about 30 feet of a paved surface almost the entire time. Oddly enough, I mostly took pictures of bridges and other manmade objects peeking out of the woods..

Saw that Erin has returned. I wouldn't have expected her to be back so soon, but she's sick.

Ugh, I breathed something in through my nose while I was out, and now it seems to be stuck tickling the back of my throat.. I coughed and sneezed to try and get it out, but it doesn't seem to want to go. I suppose it might just be a phantom sensation, or maybe I'm getting sick like everyone else..

Posted by mike at 04:20 PM Central | Erin , Photography | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2005


Well, I suppose that since I uploaded this image without any alteration whatsoever (other than re-saving at a better compression ratio), this means that I've mastered my camera. Sort of. It's still the wrong freaking color. Stupid stone with its purple tinge. Oh well. About as good as you'll ever get without spending mondo cash, I suppose.

I wandered around a lot today, and ended up getting sunburn plus a near-case of heat stroke. In the future, I plan to take the bus... At least I ended up in a place where I could take the light rail back. Anyway, I wanted to take pictures of I-35W, some Mississippi River bridges, Eastcliff, and anything else I came across. A number of things screwed me up, though. The highway info sign at 4th Ave was displaying construction information rather than freeway travel times. The ramp meter right under the 5th Ave pedestrian bridge wasn't active either (well, to be expected at 11 AM..).

At the University of Minnesota, they are ripping up one of the worn-out walkways in the middle of the mall area. The Eastcliff mansion was also undergoing repairs, plus the flags there were at half-staff (why?). It was impossible to get a nice shot of the Ford Parkway Bridge too, as there is a fence in the way at one of the only decent places to get a shot. I suppose I either need to bring a stool next time or possibly try the visitor area near the lock & dam below.

I still want to take a picture of the KSTP studios someday, since it's a bit of a landmark on University Ave (I think so anyway). The Wikipedia image of the Minnesota State Capitol building is kind of poor since it was taken on an overcast day. There still isn't a great downtown Minneapolis image (one that had been there for quite a while was later shown to have undetermined copyright status and was deleted). And, well, Saint Paul is just lacking interesting images (as is Rochester).

Take a look at some of my images. The first dozen or so in that "Stuff I've made" section are relatively old, but I've added over 20 in the last few days.

Posted by mike at 11:52 PM Central | Photography | Comments (0)

May 14, 2006


Duluth 265 reversing under bridgeI suppose I should mention that I've started to get into photography a bit more. I bought a new camera last week, and though the weather hasn't been very cooperative, I've taken a few nice shots. This streetcar photo is probably my favorite so far, though it's overexposed a bit.

My wallet didn't really like my purchase, but I know that I'll be able to make some really nice pictures with it. I don't have a great artsy eye, but I'll probably get at least a few photos to work out by accident ;-)

Posted by mike at 12:37 PM Central | Photography | Comments (0)

June 20, 2006

Off and On

According to the early reviews, the new Superman is really good. If that's true, the company that made the movie should fire their advertising department—the trailer is a stink bomb.

I saw Cars on opening night, and thought it was excellent. Then I saw A Prairie Home Companion the next day. That's a very different film, so it was hard to gauge. It seemed surprising how they played up the musical performers Robin and Linda Williams, and Jearlyn Steele. But whatever, it worked out alright.

I've continued to play with my camera, though I'm feeling a bit restricted by the graphics tools in Linux. The Gimp only handles 8 bits per color channel (24-bit graphics), which is normally fine, but it can cause images to turn out rather grainy if you start tweaking the brightness or whatever. Supposedly my camera can do something like 12 bits per color channel (36-bit graphics or thereabouts), and it would be really nice to have all of that color range used at least in the background while editing.

I know, I know, Cinepaint is supposed to let you do that, but there are two problems with it—it's a fork of the old 1.x version of The Gimp, and it's one of the buggiest pieces of software I've ever tried to run.

I occasionally try to get into an open source project here or there, but always get stuck because of the complexity. This case will probably be no different, but I'd like to take a shot at working on The Gimp to get it to handle higher bit depths. There's been some backend work already for GEGL, but that project has not yet reached a point where it can be integrated. I seem to recall hearing about that years ago, and it's not done. Well, software development takes time...

I've also tried to get some high dynamic range tools to work, where you combine multiple images into high bit depths using command-line tools, then convert that image into an 8-bit-per-channel image using special algorithms that mimic or trick the human visual system. Done right, you can get images of amazing color and detail. Here are a few examples: one two three. Well, those were actually made with a Windows program called Photomatix, but the same thing is possible on the command line. Unfortunately, one of the programs just doesn't work on my system. I point it at the JPEGs from my camera, and it says "no image found". I suspect that might be happening because my camera puts a bad string in one of the EXIF data fields...

Well, I finally wrote something after a month or so, but I've got to get ready for work.

Posted by mike at 08:42 AM Central | Movies , Photography , Software | Comments (0)

November 02, 2006


I played around with some CD cases the other day. I was trying to figure out an interesting angle to use to make a nice picture, and I happened to move a stack past a light and noticed how in shined through. Eventually, I set up a little photography stand with a lamp placed right behind the CD pile. Yay for total internal reflection, the same thing that makes fiber optics possible:


Here are some other interesting photos I've made lately:



I went to Proex at Rosedale and had them make some prints, but I wasn't really happy with the way they turned out. Well, I wasn't expecting a whole lot. The contrast went up in most of my photos, making dark areas black and light ones nearly white. I have enough trouble with that in the first place, so I wasn't happy to see that the printing process (at least at this particular place) made it even worse. Other images had significant color shifts, which annoyed me quite a bit. But it might just be that my monitor and editing software isn't calibrated (and, well, it can't be calibrated because all of that stuff is proprietary whatzits purveyed on non-Linux platforms).

Oh well, I might try somewhere else, but I guess the whole digital to photo print business is a crapshoot at best...

Posted by mike at 05:45 PM Central | Photography | Comments (0)

January 23, 2007


Well, it's been eight months since I got my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, so I've ordered a new lens for it. It's the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. Uh, okay, that's not very intelligible to most folks, so I'll break it down.

First of all, it's a Canon lens. I could have gone for another brand, but I decided against it for now.

It has an EF-S lens mount, the actual mechanical interface it uses to attach to the camera body. This is specifically for Canon's newish lower-end digital SLRs, and it's designed for the smaller sensor that they have. The camera will still accept other EOS lenses (the EF ones), but EF-S lenses won't work on most other EOS camera bodies.

Okay, next is 17-85mm. Yeah, that's focal length. It's a 5x zoom lens (85/17 = 5) which covers a fairly wide angle. Of course, the numbers aren't converted for this specific sensor size. Since the sensor is smaller on my camera than a normal 35mm frame size, you multiply that number by 1.6 to get the equivalent 35mm focal length (even though this lens only works on cameras with small sensors, they don't use a different numbering scheme). 27-136mm equivalent, I guess.

Then we get to the f number. I guess this is the widest that the aperture gets, though it varies depending on the zoom level. I would have liked to get a "faster" lens with a wider aperture, mostly since it lets you focus on a single small point and then get a pleasing background/foreground blur, but I know I'd be annoyed if there were moments when I wanted a small aperture, allowing everything to be (nearly) in focus.

Another benefit of a "fast" lens is that the wide aperture lets you take pictures in low-light conditions. However, the "IS" on this lens means it has image stabilization and lets you keep the image in focus despite jittery hands. You can still take low-light photos—the only drawback is that there can be more motion blur with an IS lens as opposed to one with a wide aperture simply because the shutter has to be open longer. Since I like to zoom in on things, I figured this would help in those situations.

USM stands for "ultrasonic motor". I'm not really sure what the benefit of this is though. One thing is that it's virtually silent, not that I think regular lenses make a whole lot of noise to begin with. Besides, if you're using an SLR, you've still got the big "click-clack!" from the mirror anyway. The other benefit is a bit intriguing, though—apparently you don't have to flip the little switch to go from autofocus to manual focus.

Since this is a general purpose lens, it will replace the 18-55mm "kit" lens that came with my camera. The main thing is that it improves my zoom from 3x to 5x, and image quality on the whole should be better. It's a chunk of change, but I felt it was the most rewarding thing for me to put some money into right now.

Posted by mike at 03:10 PM Central | Photography | Comments (0)

January 29, 2007

2 Live Krewe

Since I had new lenses for my camera, I went into downtown St. Paul intending to get to Harriet Island somehow to see Winter Carnival stuff. Of course, my bus took a different route than usual, and it turned out that I'd arrived just as the parade was getting set up. So, I decided to stick around there and take photos of that instead. It was long! It was cold! But I got some good shots.
Posted by mike at 02:39 PM Central | Photography | Comments (0)

February 10, 2007

So Close and Yet So Far

I stood out in the cold, but fortunately above-zero, weather last night to catch two simultaneous Iridium flares. Iridium flares by themselves are pretty common, but it looks fairly unusual that there'd be two of them they'd have this brightness (magnitude -8), be positioned so close together in the sky, and reach maximum intensity at exactly the same second. Most double-flares that people catch occur within larger windows of time.

Here are two versions of my photo, darkened to different levels (I had the aperture too wide):

Posted by mike at 08:57 AM Central | Photography | Comments (0)