Off the Grid

I have broken free of the binding chains that are modern technology. Well, for a few days at least. My handphone: a Sony Ericsson S700i – hasn’t been working properly for 9 months, and I finally decided to fix it.

In April of 2005 I decided I wanted a handphone with a decent camera, and the nicest screen I could find. I thought that if I were to stumble upon someone interested in seeing my photographs, I could whip out my handphone for a quick preview of my work. Ok, ok, and the rotating transformer-eske screen was pretty damn cool. Now it’s so 2005ish. It’s been a great phone, but I’ve come to a few realities:

  • The camera has become a party-shot, check out that accident, look at the English on that sign, let’s make fun of ourselves type of camera – at 1.3 megapixels and no zoom that’s all it’s good for.
  • The screen is still gorgeous, but I realize I’d never show a potential ‘client’ a photo on my phone. What was I thinking?
  • Don’t buy silver – at least not from S.E.. Silver paint is notorious for coming off. GM had a huge problem with their silver paint back in the 80’s and 90’s – it was fading and dulling much more quickly than other colors. My phone looks like it’s been to hell and back (oh wait, that was me in 2006). I’d get black next time and just be done with it. (why don’t hp companies consider many other colors a la, iPod Nano?)
  • The rotating screen is cool, but kind of a pain when I need to dial.
  • It’s too damn big. Not 1995 big, but still, it’s got the “is that your handphone or you just happy to see me” effect. I’d definitely give up the rotating action to have a slimmer model.

So what’s wrong with it? Well, last May I climbed the Javanese volcano, Gunung Gede. I put the phone in a plastic bag in my rain gear, but somehow I think moisture managed to ruin the microphone. So for the past 9 months, I’ve been honing my texting skills to new heights. I can still make a call, but I have to shout for anyone to hear me. How cool do I feel? Not only that, but I have to take the phone away from my ear and shout in it walkie-talkie style – highly embarrassing in public venues (museums, concert halls, libraries).

So despite the fact that I’m an industrial designer from university, I’ve completely forgone all sense of form or function this time. But hey, it’s a nice $450 texting machine.

It’s odd to be unreachable, to be off the grid. In a way it’s liberating. I didn’t get my first handphone (sorry, cellphone), till 2001. A big nasty flip phone from Sprint. Why’d I wait so long to get a phone? It was great – people actually had to make physical contact with me to chat. There wasn’t this cocoon of comfort knowing that no matter where you go, you’re just a speed-dial away from help, love, friendship, or pizza. In Indonesia, many of the children age 4 and up have phones dangling from their pockets. I’ve seen many a 5-year old fumbling with daddy’s $600 ‘old’ phone. People of all status, class, and financial ability have handphones here.

As technology develops and inevitably snowballs, we’re going to become even more reachable, traceable, and monitored. There are definitely two sides to this story – a story for another time.

For now, I’ll have to decide whether to shell out another $80 to replace the exterior of my phone with shiny new silverthatwillpeeloffagain paint, or deal with the ghetto appearance of my once gorgeous gadget. At the moment, I’m feeling that I’ll choose function over form – and fix just the microphone. After all, I can’t remain unreachable for long.

For now, liberation is only a fleeting glimpse of the past.

Internet Explorer 7 vs Firefox

So I wanted to see what all the fuss was about regarding Internet Explorer 7. I’ve been a big fan of Firefox, but am always open to trying new things (bit of an adopter wanna-be). I’m not a Microsoft hater or anything, but have really come to love the philosophy behind open source. I couldn’t go back to life without tabs, either. Knowing that IE 7 incorporates many of these new changes, I promptly downloaded it today (on my work computer), ran the installation file, and was welcomed by this screen.

Guess a comparison will have to wait.

Apple MacBook Pro – Worthy of the "Pro" Designation?

Sure enough, Apple has started rolling out the new Intel powered Macs.

I bought a 20″ iMac G5 in July, and decided to sell my laptop in October – finding that, of course, I still have a need for a laptop. My iMac is simply gorgeous and completely satisfies my photographic endeavors – except that I have to work from home. I long for the days of taking my laptop on vacation, to a cafe, back and forth to work, or even just popping in a movie while traveling. I refuse to give up the 20″ goodness that I’ve been spoiled with, but definitely could put a laptop to good use.

Funds aside, I guess that buying two Macs within a year rings of hedonism.

Here’s the rundown (via

You’ve dreamed about it long enough. Now it has a name: MacBook Pro. Powered by a dual-core Intel engine. Up to four times the speed of the PowerBook G4. Eight times the graphics bandwidth. With built-in iSight for instant video conferencing on the move. And Front Row with Apple Remote to dazzle everyone in the room. Wait no more. MacBook Pro starts at just $1999.

MacBook Pro At a Glance

* 15.4-inch widescreen display
* 1.67 or 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo
* 667MHz frontside bus and main memory
* PCI Express architecture
* Up to 120GB Serial ATA hard drive
* ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with up to 256MB memory on 16-lane PCI Express
* ExpressCard/34 slot
* Dual-link DVI, VGA adapter included
* One FireWire 400 port, two USB 2.0 ports
* Optical digital and analog audio I/O, built-in microphone and stereo speakers
* Slot-loading SuperDrive
* Illuminated keyboard, Scrolling TrackPad
* Built-in AirPort Extreme (802.11g), Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, and Gigabit Ethernet
* Mac OS X Tiger with iLife ’06 featuring iWeb, iWork ’06 trial, and more

Has Apple come out with the answer to my needs? At first I thought yes, but the more I delve into the details, I’m wondering if it’d be better to wait, yet again. Why am I apprehensive? First generation products typically are the ‘guinea pigs’ of the family. There are a few quirks with the MacBook – which may or may not warrant any concern, depending on the reality of your needs. For example:

The new MacBook Pro lacks dual layer DVD burning – is this a factor? Not really, as my iMac supports this.

The S-video output, the modem, and the FW800 have been removed. – one primary purpose of having S-video is the ability to use projectors for presentations. The Firewire 800 isn’t as much of a factor if you lack the gadgets for supporting it, but it seems that for $2500 they’d include it. Lack of a modem? I understand that Apple is one of the leaders in moving forward with new technology, often replacing those which lag behind. However, those of us living and working overseas probably could have found this quite useful even in this day and age of broadband. Still, it’s not a make or break point for me.

Battery life – this has yet to be tested, but with increased power requirements and faster chips, will the battery life be able to perform for 4+ hours? It seems that with all of the rapid advancements technology has made, we’d have affordable, compact batteries that could last much, much longer than today’s offerings – this holds true for all portable gadgets, but is most obvious when using notebooks in my opinion. Even 6 hours simply doesn’t seem on par with the snowball effect of technological advancement.

Only time (and hands-on reviews) will tell if these factors will affect those who pine after the latest Apple offerings. I’ll let my lust cool down for a few months before making any rash purchases (great – right around the time I visit the States this summer).

What are your thoughts on these Intel powered Macs? See Kottke’s take on this – hilarious!

iPod Video

Just as I was thinking of getting a 4GB black iPod Nano – they release this – an iPod that plays video! It’s been rumored for so long, that it’s not nearly the surprise that it should be, but all in all, Apple is on quite a roll lately. They’ve also announced a number of other upgrades for the iMac (which I just bought in July – grrrr), as well as iTunes 6.

I’m a bit of a gadget geek, so this stuff gets me going. There are a number of video players on the market already – and I’ve always held out on buying one. I’ve never felt a burning desire to watch movies or shows on a tiny display. I had a dvd player in my laptop for years, but have probably watched movies less than a dozen times. Most expats here have a driver, so while stuck in traffic, they can relax with a book or something of this nature. I choose to drive myself, and therefore don’t have that luxury. The time when I most would find this a benefit would be at the gym – however I’m pretty sure watching a movie on a 2.5″ screen while running would be a pretty bad idea. That’s where music comes into play and video doesn’t. Personally, I love having music to help distract me from the monotony of working out – and video wouldn’t be a usable feature.

For many people, this will be the player to have – especially here in Asia. Many people here covet their devices in the way that American’s covet their cars. The latest handphone, PDA, media player is almost a status symbol for the younger generation. I regularly see 8 year olds with the latest $600 Sony Ericsson handphones that their father gave them as he upgraded to the sleek, latest model.

Now, as much as I’ve argued for reasons not to get something like this, I’m sure every time I pass one in the store it will be quietly whispering my name, “Come hither Hoover.” There are many positive aspects about a player like this – and foremost may be Apple’s proven record for distribution. iTunes is a wonderful way to get a hold of new media. They’re number one for music and podcasts, and have now integrated video into iTunes 6. If any one company can pull this off – I believe Apple can.

Also, many media players (including my beloved 40GB iRiver) are horrible to navigate, create playlists, and maintain simplicity. The iPod has already created the most intuitive navigation system around – I’m sure that it will be a seamless transition for the user interface.

The fact that they’ve held the price steady while adding so many features is another big plus for Apple. I wish more companies would follow suit.

A few questions I have: if media is downloaded from iTunes – is it fixed at only one resolution? If so, 320 x 240 won’t be nearly enough to look decent on my iMac, (I notice it has a TV out – it would look a bit better on a TV’s lower resolution). Can the files be burned to CD/DVD (highly unlikely). Will they offer deals with other networks than ABC? HBO would be a good one to snag. How will this cross over with PSP? (most likely the mall rats will buy both). Do I have to buy Quicktime Pro 7 to convert DVDs to the proper format? Only 2-3 hours of video playback?

Then again, the internet is so slow in Indonesia that I really don’t have much hope/use for downloading any type of video at any time in the near future.

How does this affect my Nano decision (I still love its size)? I’m still unsure. It’s pretty difficult to rationalize paying $250 for a 4GB music player when for $50 more you can have a 30GB video player with a much better screen. Or better yet, $150 more for 60GB with better battery life. Or better yet… See that’s how they get ya!

The iPod. We announced yesterday that we had shipped almost 30 million iPods. Our market share, 75% of all MP3 players shipping. Five weeks ago we introduced the iPod Nano. And you know what? We shipped over a million iPod Nanos in the first 17 days, and we could not meet demand. But what about the white iPod? It’s been a huge success for us. And therefore, we’re going to replace it. The new white iPod. And yes, it does video.

Specs: Same width and height as current model, but thinner. QVGA (324 x 240) pixel 260,000 color 2.5-inch display. h.264 and MPEG-4 at 30 fps. TV out. 30GB and 60GB models. Same width and height. 30GB is 31% thinner than the current 20GB model [Making it 0.44-inches thick]. 60G is 12% thinner than 20GB. 30G up to 75 hours of video, $299. 60G up to 150 hours video, $399. Shipping in one week.

And, by popular demand, we make it in black. They also come with a nice carrying case, to keep ‘em all perfect. [Thin plastic sleeve]

The new iPod will be 30% thinner than the current 20GB iPod (making it 0.44-inches thick), and will feature a 60GB version (which should be thinner than the current 0.63-inch thick 20GB iPod), and editions of both in black.

What’s the device named, you ask? The iPod. That’s it, just The iPod. Well spare you the Prince jokes. The iPod will have TV out.

Cameras, Corvettes, and Confusion

From my brother’s gallery:

What does a Corvette have anything to do with cameras? Absolutely nothing, but that’s a privilege of writing your own blog.

I just heard that my brother crashed my dad’s Corvette last week. Apparently he hit a deer (or rather, the deer hit him) and caused him to do a 180 spinning into a ditch. Both are bruised and battered I’m sure, but fine otherwise.

He’s currently hosting a photographic exhibit at the University of Michigan. If you have yet to see his work, please do. He has some amazing work from Japan, China, South Africa, Indonesia, and Namibia. Not bad for a 23 year old.

On another subject, I’ve decided to upgrade my camera from a Canon 300D, otherwise known as the Canon Digital Rebel – to a Canon 350D (or Rebel XT). It’s been a wonderful tool in my thirst for photographic knowledge, but I do feel that it’s time to move up a bit. I considered the Canon 20D, but simply cannot rationalize the additional $500 for a camera with virtually the same image quality. I’ve been scouring the web in my usual way – bordering on obsessive. From what I’ve seen / heard / and read, I believe the 350D will be a good stepping stone. Stepping to what? The 5D of course! :) Too bad it’s coming in at around $3300.

I’ve also considered the following lenses –

Canon 10-22
Canon 17-40 L
Canon 17-85 IS

If anyone has any experience with them, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Google Earth and Virgin Eyes

Don’t even bother to read this if you’re at work, if you’re getting ready for bed, or if you have a significant other waiting for you to join them. In fact, don’t bother reading this unless you have a solid 3 hours to remain here with your arse glued to the seat.

Google Earth is the coolest thing since Flickr.

In the first hour of using it I was able to find and view (in decent detail) the following:

My birthplace, my parent’s home that burned down on Christmas Eve in ’99, my current abode in the urban jungle of Jakarta, all of the apartments I lived in while at university (still a bit fuzzy), the Cape Town place my mom used to live in, the phenomenal volcanic lake in Bali that I visited last month, the durian-shaped Esplanade in Singapore (photos of which were posted a few days ago), mountains I’ve climbed in New Mexico, my ex-girlfriends’ homes (ok, that was semi-stalker behaviour I admit), plus the usual: Eiffel Tower, Grand Canyon, London Bridge, etc.

I follow the news, read nerd-esque sites (wired, slashdot, etc), regularly browse blogs, and overall am active in the happenings of the web – but it’s been a long time since anything has grabbed my attention like Google Earth. I’ve always been a fan of checking out maps, browsing through atlases, picking up books on a variety of destinations (yes, I own “Earth From Above”) – and this has completely renewed my avid addiction to travel.

It’s fairly straightforward, so I won’t go into detail about using it – check it out for yourself. A few questions come to mind, however:

    Could this aid terrorism in any way? (check out Baghdad)

    Are there plans to construct a 45-degree viewing angle so as to show more perspective when zooming into cities?

    Are there plans to create “fly throughs” for most major attractions?

    How old are the images?

    Could this ever be a “real time” viewing experience? (probably not, as it would require unthinkable amounts of data and equipment)

    How could this be integrated into a variety of professions – city planning, education, real estate, travel agencies, economists, and environmentalists? (check out the rainforest depletion in the Amazon)

    Are the advanced features worth the payment?

    Why doesn’t it work with Mac yet? (I use a 20″ iMac G5 at home, but a PC at work – can only view it at work)

    Could users be more involved without creating a junk-pile of false information? (check out Tokyo with the user-submitted option checked)

    How will the similar upcoming Microsoft product compare?

I’ve already considered posting aerial views of the areas I’ve photographed from the ground – that may prove interesting, (but possibly only to me). I’d also like to figure out a way to capture it with video so as to give a better perspective of locations – anyone know a good way to do this? (there’s an optional payment for exporting .wmv)

It’s an exciting time we live in, and yet as the mysteries of the world are now only a click away, it somehow creates feelings of elation as well as a sense of loss – of that wonder that can only be felt from visiting a new destination for the first time with virgin eyes.

Singapore’s Esplanade – see image from a few days ago below.

Grand Canyon

St. Peter’s Basillica

Sydney Opera House

Better Days

It seems life has a way of maintaining the balance… I have a new puppy.

Is it cruel to forgo the mourning period? Well, if I didn’t take the puppy the owner was going to put them on the street – and trust me, in Jakarta that’d be a bad thing. He’s probably some kind of Terrier, jet black, pees everywhere, and only about 4 weeks old. I’ll post an image of him as soon as I get around to taking one.

Another high point – I managed to save all of my data from last week’s external hard drive crash. All of my photos are safe – I’ve learned my lesson and will be burning everything to dual layer dvds for archive sake. Triple copy things, people – preferably one of them on an optical disk that can be stored somewhere other than your home.

My broadband is all hooked up – hence the more regular posting – I’m sure many of you take fast, cheap, and reliable internet for granted – but know that somewhere out there are people like me who are ecstatic with 128kbs for $200. 😉

One more week and we’ll be in Bali for three weeks! I’ve found a house for $15 / day. I’m not even kidding. I’ve done the whole 5 star, posh Nusa Dua thing. I’ve done the drunken, sunburned Kuta thing. Now it’s time for a house in the rice fields outside of Ubud. In my hiatus from the Web, I hope to truly focus on my photography and come back with enough fresh material to wade through for 3 months. After Bali it’ll be a week in Singapore for some modern relaxation (and visa renewal).

In preparation for Bali, I’ve been posed by the problem of not wanting to cart around my laptop – it’s just not worth the hassle, weight, or worry. I’ve checked around and there seem to be enough photo/computer stores around Ubud that it shouldn’t be a problem. My dilema was in the fact that I was unsure of how to continually wipe the images from my camera’s card so that I may keep taking photos. I have many friends who’ve been on trips with their digital cameras – only to either fill up their cards or be forced to switch to a ridiculously low resolution for space saving. Their vacation photos were ruined because of such a small detail.

Then the solution hit me – my music player! I have a 40GB iRiver (iPod’s competitor) that can act as an external hard drive as well as a media player – meaning all I have to do is download the images from any computer and upload them to the player. No need for anything bulkier. I’ll be able to save thousands of images in the three weeks without the need for a laptop or finding a CD burner! Technology is sublime.

And, in closing, I highly recommend supporting this effort by signing your name on the list – in the efforts to help world poverty.

16 Pixels

16 pixels is not a lot of room.

How do you represent yourself in this [ ] amount of space? I spent the better part of an hour learning how to create favicons for work today. What the hell is a favicon? That little icon located next to the web address you just typed in.

I figured I’d try out a few for personal use. It’s harder than it looks to represent your site in the space occupied by a pea. A few examples of my efforts –

Finally I settled on this one – not so much for its design but rather for its personal meaning. Any thoughts? Don’t hesitate telling me a kindergartener can do better – I can take rejection. 😉

I’ve been eyeing a G5 iMac lately – I’ve been a pc user most of my life – except when studying product and graphic design in university. I’ve never experienced terrible viruses, blue-screens, or other anti-pc problems – I simply love well designed products and find this to be an exceptionally designed computer. I have no angst for Mr. Gates, but know that my photography and design work may be better served with a Mac.

The mac mini held my attention for a while, especially for its portability – but then again, I have a still very functional Compaq laptop that’s served me well for that purpose.

There are pros and cons for both macs – the iMac’s beautiful screen could also be its pitfall – if the screen breaks, the processor would be a lifeless slab of white. If the processor breaks, the screen becomes a very pricey lcd without life.

The mac mini – as cute as it is – could prove to be a bit slow for the massive image files I run on Photoshop.

On the other hand, I love the design aspect of both products – but dread the thought of coupling such a great product as the mac mini with a big ass CRT monitor – killing any suavity (is that a word?) that it works so hard to put forth. And Photoshop may run completely fine if it sits on 512mb of ram or more.

The iMac most likely would be a completely reliable, super chic, and beautiful addition to my workspace (practicality taking a back seat) and would probably provide a couple of blissful years of service without so much as a hiccup. If I do go this way I may prefer to wait a few months till Apple supposedly offers Tiger OS included with more standard ram and 1.8 – 2.0ghz offerings.

Then again, I could just keep on keepin on with my current setup – a 2.4ghz wintel, 512mb ram, 80gb hard drive (bursting at the seams).

My compaq 1.6ghz laptop, 768mb ram, 30gb hard drive (uh, yeah, my music player has more memory).

A seagate 160gb portable hard drive (awesome purchase, but will need another one soon).

Ah, the ponderings of a twenty-something, cluelesstothefuture, notquiteoldenoughtobegererationx’er.

Any thoughts on these thoughts?