Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Our World Tour book review

By Chuck Hajd├║

One World Tour is an interesting book to review. It is all about a really selfish photographer taking advantage of an opportunity. The author/photographer, Mario Dirks, makes it very clear that he applied for, and won, this job based on his desire to travel on somebody else’s dime. I have no problem with that at all!

The added benefit was someone else paid for him, and a companion, to travel the world (as defined by “someone” apparently at SIGMA) with free camera equipment.  Duh…. I’d take it too.

O’Reilly books describes the journey like this: Sigma sent Mario on a yearlong adventure to photograph the most beautiful places on earth. As Sigma's World Scout, he spent 50 weeks visiting a total of 77 cities, 48 countries, and 6 continents. He took 101 flights and traveled 2,500 miles on foot.

I can’t make a knowledgeable comment on the choice of equipment because I’ve used very few of their products. I have used a few of their lenses over the years but none of their dSLRs. The only Sigma lens I currently use regularly is a 50-200mm f/4-5.6 DC OS HSM zoom lens in Pentax mount. It is extremely well built and takes excellent pictures.

The photographic equipment provided to the author for this adventure included two Sigma SD 1 Merrill dSLRs and a selection of Sigma lenses. The 70–200mm 2.8, 24–70mm 2.8, 17–50mm 2.8, 85mm 1.4, 105mm macro 2.8, 10–20mm 3.5, 8–16mm 2, fisheye, 2x converter and 18–250mm travel lens. That’s quite an arsenal! He also carried all of the extra equipment any fully equipped photographer would have. I don’t know how much his equipment was worth but the MSRP of each camera body alone was over $3,000.00 at the time. Now down to a more reasonable $2,000. To me that’s a heck of a lot of money to pay for an APS-C camera, albeit one with a 46MP sensor.

Before I talk about the quality of the photographs I’d like to comment on the choice of locations in the “world”. I’m sure that everyone has a different opinion on what the “must see” sites on Earth and mine are definitely different than the ones chosen. Many of the locations were clearly picked because they are in travel brochures or are famous sites. My choices would have included quite a few places that are wonderfully scenic and deserve to be included in any book: the Maine coastline of the USA, the Greek islands, Budapest, Hungary, the south of France and rural Japan all come to mind instantly. None are included in this book.

The author includes pleasantly written commentaries about each of his stops and that helps the reader to understand the photographs better. His anecdotes are nicely done and make the book an enjoyable “trip”.

Many of the photographs are taken of commonly photographed places and don’t really seem to capture the spirit of a place. I was particularly disappointed in the photos of Washington, DC, Las Vegas and New York City. They were all common and uninspired. Perhaps that was because it was the start of the trip.

The pictures taken at the Grand Canyon were, however, spectacular! There are also quite a few excellent pictures included. Most of them, in my opinion, are of outdoor scenery. The author seems to have an excellent eye for capturing the beauty of nature.

MSRP for the eBook (PDF, MOBI and ePub) is $19.95, print is $44.95 and price for both is $49.95

August ePub issue

The August issue of our monthly ePub was emailed out this morning. As usual, it has some great articles and reviews and is well worth your time to read it.

If you aren't already a subscriber please let us know and we'll add you to the list.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Mozilla CEO

Mozilla's executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced in a blog posting on Monday that the troubled company had finally picked an old face Chris Beard for its new chief executive.

Beard, who has served as Mozilla's interim CEO since April, had worked as Executive-in-Residence at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners, before returning to Mozilla. In his earlier career Beard had worked at Mozilla since 2004 and the launch of Firefox 1.0.

As Baker noted, "During his many years here, he at various times has had responsibility for almost every part of the business, including product, marketing, innovation, communications, community and user engagement."

Beard's being asked to lead an open-source company from a terrible mis-step with its last CEO, Brendan Eich. Eich's appointment and anti-gay marriage politics lead to serious morale problems. When all was said and done Eich served as CEO for a mere nine days.

In addition, the business faces a hard deadline to find new revenue streams before its Google advertising contract concludes later this year. With approximately 90 percent of its income depending on Google, and little reason to think that Google will renew the contract, Mozilla faces a make-it or break it crisis.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

More on Chromebooks

By Bayle Emlein

A Chromebook is a computer that runs on the Chrome operating system, which is Linux-based. More specifically the term refers to a variety of small, light devices that function as thin clients to access resources on the internet.

If you're working on a device built as a Chromebook (in contrast to a computer upgraded to run the Chrome operating system), you'll notice a more compact keyboard: no Function Keys, no Backspace (that function is Covered by Delete), no Page Up or Page Down buttons. But you will have a Search key, with the familiar magnifying glass icon.

What features do Chromebooks offer?
  • Inexpensive
  • Light weight
  • Boots fast
  • Relatively long battery life
  • Portable
  • Expendable
  • Secure, no local data
  • Different from what we have been doing (it's not Windows 8)
  • Many apps to add specific features.

What can a Chromebook do?
  • Read email
  • Surf
  • Watch movies on Netflix
  • Create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365
  • Edit photos
  • Listen to and organize music.

What can a Chromebook not do?
  • Play a DVD or Blu Ray movie
  • Rip a music CD to MP3
  • Edit a high definition video
  • Play Call of Duty at 60 FPS
  • Yield a huge return at a Las Vegas pawn shop.

Is a Chromebook in your future? Like most technology purchase decisions, the answer is: “It depends.” It depends on your needs, preferences, and work habits. For example, does the lack of a DVD drive (and the need to use additional resources such as an external drive or USB drive to transfer files) take more of your time and energy than the hassle of carrying that extra weight and keeping track of an expensive machine?  How much do they cost? Now (the end of June 2014), the cost had dropped to an average of $150. This week, Tiger is advertising a $129 special. Judicious e-shopping should get you something similar whenever you get out there Searching.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

SysAdmin Appreciation Day Winners

We will be sending out registration codes to the three winners of our SysAdmin Appreciation Day drawing tomorrow.

We'd like to thank everyone who entered and congratulate the winners.

Friday, July 25, 2014

iFruit Money

Apple may introduce a new mobile-payment system as soon as the fall, which would add yet another tech giant to a particularly hot trend in mobile.

The Information reported Wednesday that conversations between Apple and companies in the payment industry, such as Visa, have "heated up" in recent months. Citing people briefed on the talks, the online publication said Apple executives discussed launching a mobile "wallet" soon and it could be included in the introduction of the highly anticipated iPhone 6.

The area of mobile payments has drawn considerable attention from the tech industry, with companies seeking to either gain payment data from customers or take a small cut of credit and debit transactions. Still, in-store payments using smartphones haven't been particularly popular with customers, and a few major initiatives have struggled to make progress.

Google has been blocked from wireless carriers' networks for its Google Wallet app. Several wireless carriers -- looking to take on mobile payments themselves under the name Isis Mobile Wallet -- spent years building partnerships, but said this month the service would change its name after the word "Isis" became synonymous with a Middle East-based terror group. The Isis Mobile initiative is jointly run by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Startup Square and eBay's PayPal are just two more of the many companies offering services in the mobile-payment market.

While many other companies started pushing into mobile payments around 2011, Apple has been slower to jump into the waters, though industry watchers have long expected the company to eventually come out with a mobile wallet service. In January, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was intrigued by mobile payments and added that part of the thinking in rolling out the iPhone 5S's Touch ID feature was, potentially, to complement payments.

A small step Apple has taken into that arena was Passbook, a service launched in 2012 that brought together a person's loyalty cards, coupons, and event tickets on the iPhone. Passbook doesn't include debit or credit card payment features.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chromebook Sales are Surging

Chromebook sales have risen sharply over the past several months, according to a recent report from research firm NPD. Chromebook sales in the commercial channel increased 250 percent compared with the prior year and accounted for 35 percent of all U.S. channel notebook sales during the January-May period. Chromebooks, in other words, were extremely popular during the period and continue to be so.

Exactly why and how Chromebooks have been achieving such sales success, however, are not so readily known. When the devices, which run Google's Chrome OS Web-based operating system, were first announced, many market observers believed that they had little chance of winning a significant share of the PC market.  And that seemed to hold true in the first couple of years after Chromebooks hit the market in mid-2011. But the latest data shows that Chromebook sales are adding to the competitive headwinds that Windows notebooks are experiencing these days.