Compact Flash – Finally!

My single biggest annoyance with my Nikon D70 camera has been swapping flash cards. I shoot in JPEG Fine so I can fit about 75 photos on a 256MB flash card. I have two of these and am quite adept at swapping them as soon as I’ve filled up the first. Having two 256MB flash cards just isn’t enough. When I shoot panoramas, I burn through 10-20 shots each. Shooting just a few of those will leave me in want of space.

On our Alaska trip I toted along my PowerBook to offload the photos as I filled the flash cards. I also took it to have a full darkroom at my disposal but there are occasions like our Isle Royale trip where it’s impractical to take the PowerBook, or even an iPod with Griffin’s media reader.

Until recently, the options for solving this problem have been: a) pay through the nose for a big (1GB +) flash card, buy an iPod mini or Nomad 4GB mp3 player for $250 and rip the 4GB flash card out of it, or just wait for the prices to become reasonable. Now that fast 1GB cards can be had for under $100, there’s no reason not to upgrade. Pick a fast card from Rob Gilbraith’s site and then use PriceGrabber to find it cheap.

I picked up a SanDisk Ultra II 1.0GB for $89 shipped to my door. That’s a far better deal than buying more 256MB flash cards locally for $60 each.

More IP phone problems

This evening our IP phone service went AWOL again. Apparently Packet 8 had a database issue where they lost a cluster of accounts. Ours was one of them so when we tried making a call, it didn’t work. Fortunately, we have three other phone lines in the house with which to call them.

They fixed the problem in about 10 minutes and are giving me a $4 credit for the inconvenience. I’m not as happy as if it hadn’t happened, but twice now I’ve called with a problem and I get a support person very quickly. They resolve issues very quickly as well. I am quite satisfied with their technical support thus far.

Phone works

After a phone call to Packet8 this morning, my old and new phone numbers now both work. Yay. πŸ™‚

Phone issues

Well, my land line (775-0119) is currently in a state of disrepair. It works, I can call out just fine, but nobody can call me via it. If you dial that number, you’ll get a nice message stating that the number is not in service. Lovely.

So much for the promise of LNP (Local Number Portability) being easy. This is, of course, what happens when two phone companies have to work together. My previous phone company (Sage Telecom) is losing my business as I’ve have dropped them in favor of my new IP phone service, with the option of getting my old number placed on my new phone.

It all works great in theory. You keep your old phone, and your new one arrives. That happened a few weeks back. The new phone service get’s hooked up with a temporary number while the LNP process begins. Some weeks later (today), the new phone company gets the number from the old one and calls get routed to your new phone. Well, that routing is currently FUBAR.

This will be a wonderful thing, when it’s all sorted out. In the mean time, you can call us via our IP phone number (231-577-4113). It’s a local Cadillac exchange so it dials just like any other 775, 779, or 876 number.

Internet Telephony

I’ve been wanting an IP phone for quite a while now, and keep checking with the providers of IP phones every now and again. Finally, packet8 got local service in northern Michigan so I just had to sign up. I got the phone in a couple weeks ago and so far, it’s been great.

It took 5 days for the terminal adapter to arrive, and less than 5 minutes to get it working. It works quite well, even better than my copper based “land line”. For $20/mo I get unlimited coast-to-coast long distance, dirt cheap international long distance ($0.02-$0.05), and I can use the phone anywhere I have high speed internet.

I’ve used it to make quite a few long distance calls and the people I call can’t tell the difference between it and my land line. I’d have probably chose Vonage based on their reputation but packet8 has the better coverage and less costly plan.

I’m stepping out of Point and Shoot

I’m selling my beloved Nikon Coolpix 995, so if you know of someone that’s interested in a good deal on a great little camera, have them take a look here. This is the camera that I’ve been carrying around for the last two years and enjoy so much. Why would I sell such a great camera?

As you may know, I forsook film long ago and will not ever again touch it. Not because it’s not good, because results can be achieved with film that will likely take at least 5 more years to accomplish with digital cameras. However, I’m a computer guy, so I want my photos to all end up on the computer, and I’m more than satisified with the performance of digital versus 35mm film.

In the digital camera world, there’s two classes of camera: P/S (point and shoot) and SLR (single lens reflex). Point and shoot digicams are ones that do nearly everything for you. You point them at something, push the shutter button and wait while it captures a good picture. SLR are the “pro” cameras. They’re big, heavy, require seperate lenses, and are terribly expensive (thousands of $). You do most of the work, push the button and it instantly captures what you are looking at.

The lower end of the digicam P/S market (~ $200) are selling like hotcakes and you seem then everywhere. They’re cheap, the photo quality is good for the price, but if you ever want to do anything with the photos, like say, print them, you will almost certainly be disappointed in the results. It’s generally accepted that quality is closely related to price.

The midrange of the market is the “sweet spot”. For $300-500 you can get a fantastic P/S camera that takes great pictures, even in the hands of a novice. The 8×10 prints are every bit as good as a 35mm enlargement. That’s the class my Coolpix 995 lives in, a great camera that makes it easy for photography amatuers like myself to take great shots you can print and share.

The high end of the P/S market pushes from $700-1000 and includes some excellent cameras that take fantastic photos. For the last couple years, I’ve patiently watched these cameras rapidly evolve, anticipating an upgrade when a camera significantly better than mine arrived. This would have been the next logical step in my photography growth.

However, something outside the Point and Shoot world finally happened that changed the rules. In the DSLR (digital SLR) world, the price point finally crossed the high end of the P/S market. Now, instead of spending close to a $1,000 on a high end P/S, I can buy a Canon EOS-300D or Nikon D70 for that same money. These new SLR cameras have nearly all the functionality (and more in cases) of a $3,000 DSLR camera a year or two ago.

What this means is that instead of packing along two pounds and a tiny bag of camera gear on my trips, I’ll be toting along a substantially bigger bag that weights more. I used to shake my head at pro photographers packing 10-15 pounds of photo gear into the outback. To get a photo you can blow up to hang on the wall, that’s the price you had to pay. Fortunately, the newer DSLR cameras are quite a bit lighter and so are the lenses so it won’t be quite so bad.

So, can you expect to see better quality photos on my web site soon? Not because of the camera upgrade. πŸ˜‰ The 995 is more than capable of capturing excellent photos for that purpose. The studying that I’ll be doing, the books I’m reading, and the time I spend practicing my photography skills will make that difference and my skills will continue to improve.

The difference moving up to the D70 will make is in what I can do with the photos. I have several “Wow, I show those?” photos in my library that are of sufficient quality that I’d like to blow them up and put them on my wall. However, the quality they were captured at is insufficient for this purpose. By stepping up to the D70, the capabilities are enhanced significantly beyond even the most expensive of the P/S cameras.

ShopSafe is cool!

I’ve had a MBNA credit card for almost 10 years and have been very pleased with their service. Over time they have slowly inched my credit limit skyward and yesterday I noticed it was up to $42,000. So, I logged onto their web site to find the “lower my limit” button and couldn’t find it. What I found instead was the coolest new feature called ShopSafe.

ShopSafe is a free service that allows you to generate a temporary credit card number, with specified time and spending limits. The number is only valid for one merchant, with a capped limit and for a pre-defined number of months. How cool is that? Anyhow, I ended up calling them to get my credit limit drastically reduced. Since I never carry balances, I can’t imagine needing such an absurdly high limit.

Today I’m putting together a computer system for a client and needed to purchase $1,200 worth of computer equipment from a vendor I have never dealt with. Rather than giving them one of my credit card numbers, I logged onto my MBNA account, created a one time ShopSafe number with a $1300 limit, and gave that to them. Once they authorize the transaction, the number will not work for any other merchant, and they can’t charge me for any more than the limit I set. That’s very, very cool.

You could also use it for recurring transcactions, such as a magazine subscription. You could set the max amount to the annual subscription limit and a 12 month time limit. After your subscription expires, your vendor cannot overbill you or automatically re-subscribe you without you giving them a new number. Cool. πŸ™‚

MT is the way to blog

In case you weren’t away, a blog is a Web Log. All the good acronyms were already taken so the term “blog” is what was left. I’ve been maintaining my web log for quite a few years and in the last year or so, it’s become a very popular thing to do.

A few of my buddies from INLD now have blogs. Jason has one, Deven has one, and even not so geeky people like my buddy Mike Barker has one. Who is next, my dad(s)?