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So I guess I'm not the only one with hard drive problems:

Apple to Replace Bad Hard Drives

Apple, meet Toyota.

The computer company, while not formally issuing a recall, says it will replace for free “a very small percentage” of hard drives that are prone to failure in some MacBook laptops sold from May 2006 to December 2007."

February 19, 2010, 7:35 PM

Canon 7D announced

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canon_eos7d.gifHot off the press: "Canon has today announced the EOS 7D digital SLR. It boasts a new 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, Dual DIGIC 4 processors, ISO range expandable to 12800, continuous shooting at 8 fps and full HD video recording. It also incorporates a new viewfinder with 1.0x magnification and 100% coverage and a 3 inch LCD with 920k dot resolution."


One of my colleagues asked for a recommendation for a digital video camera for the field. I recommended against getting a Mini-DV or HV camcorder and instead going all digital with a flash (SDHC) based camcorder:

These days, instead of using tape, I recommend going all digital. That way, you can simply dump the video files to your PC and don't have to bother digitizing them. You will need a large hard drive, but a 500 gigabyte pocket hard drive is cheap and fits in your laptop bag easily.

I recommend these models:

  • Canon Vixia HF-10 or HF-100 (this is the one I use)
  • Sanyo Xacti (small, handheld, the microphone isn't as good on this, but size is excellent)

Be sure to get a large SD card -- at least 4 gigabytes. Eight or 16 gigabytes is preferable.


Do you think this was good advice? Please post any suggestions or comments (or questions)!

I swear that at the American Anthropological Meeting, at least one third of the anthropologists that I met had an iPhone. What a bunch of geeks!

jesus.jpgIn case you didn't know, AT&T will often give you discounted / corporate rates on their monthly service charge if you are an employee of some companies. And most larger schools have these negotiated rates for their students, faculty, staff, and other affiliates.

I should've done this when I signed up for my Jesus-phone but I didn't know until a few months later when a colleague told me. I went down to my local AT&T store and showed them my Yale ID card and they input the discount code in the computer.

Two months later, I'm saving about $12 a month on my service. Not a whole lot, but it adds up to $144 a year.

I recently installed CHDK on my Canon A590IS, which allows me to take time lapse photos.

CHDK is a piece of software that provides additional functionality to Canon digital cameras. I have explained it to others as "jailbreaking" my camera, as some have done with their iPhones.

It is admittedly a little complicated to install CHDK onto the camera. The hard part is that you first have to use a hex editor to change the boot sector of the SD card to make it bootable. Once that is done you just copy the CHDK software over to the card, switch it to the locked position, put the card in the camera, and go.

One other caveat is that CHDK works best with FAT16 formatted media, which puts a 2GB limit on the amount of memory that is able to be used. For this reason I bought an extra 2GB card to put the CHDK software on instead of the 4GB card I already had.

Once you have the CHDK loaded there are various scripts that you can run. One script, the Ultra Intervalometer, allows you to specify how many photographs to take at what interval. This is the script I used.

The video you see above is from a set of pictures that were taken from 11:38 p.m. to 12:06 a.m. on New Year's Eve 2008. Make of it what you will. ( ^ _ ^ )

I used the "open image sequence" option in QuickTime Pro to make the video, then uploaded it to my Flickr account (which plays on iPhones).

One of the students in my visual anthro class asked about how to capture an iChat video conversation (both sides). She wanted to tape a conversation with one of her informants. A little googling revealed a neat little application called Conference Recorder:

There are also some neat tips in the article, including the use of SnapZ or Garage Band to record iChat (and perhaps Skype) conversations.

As always, let the other person know that you are recording the conversation -- for ethical and legal reasons.

We talked in my Ethnographic Filmmaking class yesterday about field journals. I'm particular to keeping paper journals (which I scan and PDF) but students had some recommendations for online journaling software:




I should mention that some of my grad students have also experimented with using blogging software set to a privacy mode to blog their fieldnotes.

I also posted an older (but much more extensive) list a while ago:

I was cleaning up my office today when I came across some old Kodak PhotoCDs from the late-paleolithic era (circa 2001). I put them in my Mac Book Pro to see what was on them but was surprised when neither the OSX 10.5 Leopard system (QuickLook or nor Photoshop CS3 could open them.

That's odd, I could've sworn Photoshop could handle PhotoCD .pcd files. A little googling reveals that Adobe abandoned that feature when they ported CS3 over to Intel and never bothered to carry the functionality over. I guess they decided Kodak and PhotoCD were good and dead.

Hmm... well, there's always GraphicConverter, right? It's the one application that can read practically everything. I launched it up and it read and converted the files from .pcd to .jpg just fine -- except for the 4 Base and 16 Base sizes. The Base size (512 x 768) displayed correctly but 4 Base and 16 Base came out indecipherably.

It looked like a bug in GraphicConverter, so I dashed off a bug report to them. I then had a couple of options according to the Google:

  • Run Photoshop CS3 in Rosetta mode and use the old Kodak PhotoCD plugin
  • Get Irfanview for the PC and do the conversion in that program, which just happened to have a very good batch function

Since I had VMWare Fusion running anyway, I downloaded Irfanview, installed the PhotoCD plugin, and ran the batch conversion. All done, all finished and my photos from a bygone era are now safely re-digitized as JPEGs.

The moral of the story is -- archival file formats aren't. Be safe and secure, save your files in something standard like JPEG* that isn't going to go anywhere as it isn't tied to one vendor.

* We'll want to revisit this in 10 years and see if JPEG is still around, but I'm pretty sure they'll still be JPEG importers even in 2018. I'm not so sure about JPEG2000, PNG, and Adobe DNG though!

Equipment: Random stuff

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Making a camping stove from used Pepsi-Cola or Mountain Dew cans.

Jason Romero sends me a link to a great article by Gary Voth about ditching your SLR's consumer zoom lens for a classic 50mm prime lens:

If you are like most photographers just starting out with a new 35mm SLR, chances are it came with one of those ubiquitous 28-80mm (or similar) "consumer" zooms. In the last 15 years these inexpensive lenses have all but replaced the traditional 50mm prime lens as the starter optic for 35mm photographers. The 50mm lens, once the mainstay of 35mm photography, has been all but forgotten by today's photographers. [more]

I agree but I personally prefer a wider 35mm lens (such as my handy Summicron 35mm for the Leica M system) to the 50mm that Gary recommends. I find a 50mm is just a bit too "long" and while it's good for capturing intimate portraits, it makes it harder to understand the context in which the photograph exists. A 35mm also forces you to get that much closer which is always a good thing.

ZoomH4Controls.jpgI've been recording some Ainu music and dance performances on the side. I needed a second mic unit, so I bought the Samson Zoom H4 to complement my current Edirol R-09. I was waiting for the H2, but its ship date seems to have been pushed back to late August. The H4 was ¥27620 or approximately $230 by mail order.

Here are my preliminary thoughts on the Zoom H4:

Size: The unit is much bigger than I thought, the H4 seems almost twice the size of the R-09. It seems needlessly large, as though they could have reduced it to half the length if they wanted to.

External Mics: The H4 seems to have excellent sound recording when using an external XLR mic such as my Sennheiser ME64. The preamps are very quiet. The H4 supplies true +48V phantom power (+24V selectable) to the mic. One thing that seems odd is that I haven't found how to make the unit record in mono if there is only one mic attached.

Internal mics: Preliminary tests suggest that the internal X-Y configuration condensers are quite sensitive and separation is quite good. However, the internal pre-amps have a considerably higher noise floor compared to my Sennheiser ME64 condenser mic when plugged into the external XLR jack of the H4. Also, I'm very surprised that the internal mics on the H4 don't have any type of shock mounting. This means that any button press or even the faint sound of your hand sliding on the unit body gets transmitted to the mics. I would have liked to have seen the internal mics at least a little more isolated from the case.

Recording Mode Selection: I like the easy one-button selection and display of the current recording type (MP3 / WAV), bitrate, and bit depth. I switch between using MP3 compressed formats and uncompressed WAV files depending on what I'm recording. This requires going through a menu structure on the R-09 but only one-click on the H4.

Levels / Attenuation: You can't change the sound levels / attenuation without going first to the input menu, selecting levels, and then clicking through a couple more items. All of these button clicks are transmitted to the internal mics and to your recording. I would've preferred a simple one-button level control as on the R-09.

Lack of peak meter: The R-09 has a separate peak LED that lights when the recording levels are too high and are clipping. While the H4 has level meters, they aren't always visible and it's not easy to tell when it is clipping.

Batteries: Battery life is about 4 hours with two alkaline AAs. The H4 does not officially support NiCad/NiMH rechargeable batteries. Exacerbating the lack of support for rechargeables, it does not have a battery level meter, so you can't tell if your batteries are good or half-finished. Also, the H4 can't turn itself off if you leave it on by mistake. The R-09 supports NiMH and alkalin, has a battery meter, and can turn itself off when unusued.

Accessories: The Zoom comes with a tripod adapter, wind shield, and thin case. The Edirol doesn't come with any of these. Unfortunately, the Zoom's tripod adapter has no shock mounting and since the internal mics are also not shock mounted, any vibration coming through the tripod mount will show up in the recording.

Nakamura-Kashgar.jpgThis is a follow up to my earlier posting about various water purification methods in the field. Please note that everyone has their own particular field water purification needs and one-size does not fit all.

In my case, I occasionally travel through urban and semi-rural areas in East and Southeast Asia, and not always the most developed areas. I stay at hotels and hostels and there is usually running water although it may be suspect. I eat at street-side restaurants that may not be that hygienic. The food is usually ok because it's been cooked but the water/lukewarm tea that gets served is suspect.

So my water needs are to to easily purify tap and street bought water (clean but maybe virus or parasite laden). As noted in my previous post, the obvious and best solution for this is UV-C water purification. Iodine / chlorinated tablets leave a bad taste and take too long and water filters are a pain to use.

ArsTechnica has a fantastic overview of the current crop of high-end pigment-based inkjet photo printers:

My Epson 1280 is still soldiering on, but when I end up replacing it, I think I'll get a Canon. I'm sick of Epson's policy of suing every single third-party ink manufacturer and Canon's ink tanks are larger and more efficient.

Roland has released a minor firmware update for its Edirol R-09 digital audio recorder: (click on "Downloads)

The new features are:

  • Repair Files (fixes corrupted files)
  • Max recording size (allows you to limit the max file size of a recording)
  • Peak hold (peak audio level is held for a short while to make it easier to detect peak audio levels)
  • Rec/Peak LED energy saving (turn off these LEDs to save batteries)

See my other notes on the Edirol.

iFixitIBook.jpgI recently had to change out the hard drive on my partner's iBook G4. It's a tremendously difficult procedure with (what seemed like) over a hundred screws that need to get removed in the proper order. iFixit has a great guide series for disassembling and reassembling your Macs and iPods, including a very useful screw reminder sheet that I used to cellotape all the screws to in the order that I removed them:

I put the old drive in a portable USB enclosure and used SuperDuper! to clone the old drive to the new one. Everything worked spankingly and my partner now has a 100 gb drive to put her huge iPhoto database on! And an external 60 gb USB drive for backups.

You'll need an assortment of teeny Phillips screwdrivers (including a Torx, although I used a hex driver) and a "spudger" or a little lever tool that helps you crack the iBook case. iFixit will sell you one, I used one that I had from my camera repair toolkit. A small set of tweezers was also great for picking up small parts. My screwdrivers are magnetized, which also helps with the small screws.

p.s. I wish Apple made the iBook easier to maintain! You shouldn't have to take out 100+ screws just to change out the hard drive!

Equipment - tools of the trade: February 2010: Monthly Archives


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