Author Archives: David Gaw

OC Auto Show Impressions

And now, I will rattle on about cars for a while.  I stayed in San Diego this weekend to visit with friends, and having learned on the radio earlier in the week that the annual Orange County Auto show is underway, drove up to have a look around.  I’ve always loved car shows, even when I’m not in the market for a car; I look at it as an aspect of my basic love of gadgets, of which cars are simply one of the larger examples.

Of course, the one bad thing about car shows is you can usually judge the cars only on their physical appearance, not their performance or handling—obvious important factors in evaluating a car.  The Orange County show addresses that in part by hosting test drives outside the convention center, but they weren’t doing those yet on Friday night.  Still, it’s nice being able to see a lot of cars up close and compare their looks head to head.

Some impressions…

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Quick as a Flash: David’s New SSD

imageAfter careful consideration, including a review of this Tom’s Hardware article, and consultation with my friend Rip, who made a similar purchase last year, I finally sprang for a solid-state drive for my desktop PC.  I went with the 128 GB Crucial drive, and just spent the last 8 hours or so installing it.  (Breakdown of time required: installation of drive = 3 minutes; reinstallation of Windows and all of my software = 7.95 hours). 

But so worth it—this thing is fast!  With approximately the same software installed, my Windows 7 start time has dropped from a minimum of 3:11 or so before the upgrade to right around 1:30 now.  More importantly the computer feels faster, more noticeably than it did, for example, after my last processor upgrade.  I moved my data directories and my sizable Steam games directory onto a spinning drive (following Keith Survell’s instructions here), leaving ample room on the SSD for Windows and my other programs.  Every time I run an application, I find myself smiling as it pops open so much faster than expected.  Hey, when you spend as much time in front of a keyboard as I do, believe me, these things matter. 

Great upgrade.

Restaurant Police: So Much For Focusing on the Economy

When the Obama Administration said recently it would focus on the economy—which by the way it also said back in January, before focusing instead on health care—you probably though it meant it would focus on helping the economy, didn’t you?  Here’s Andrew Malcolm, writing in the LA Times:

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country.

…Obama would like to see more healthy choices for Americans dining out, even if it means a restaurant deleting a best-selling menu item.

…The Democrat suggested that Americans are "programmed" by taste and advertising to eat many things that the government and health professionals know are not healthy for their bodies. So she wants to facilitate a nationwide re-programming of personal tastes by having restaurants start serving less of what customers ignorantly want and more of what they should have.

A nationwide reprogramming supported by public borrowing and paid for by the US taxpayer, I’ll wager!  Because as you know, adults are incapable of deciding what or where to eat, or what menu items will appeal to their customers.  And nothing helps the economy quite like restaurants deleting their best selling menu items.

Wait a minute, doesn’t this sound a lot like focusing on health care instead of the economy?  Again?  It’s like they can’t help themselves.  Maybe it’s the Obama administration that needs reprogramming. 

In the meanwhile, I daresay Americans have some suggestions in turn for First Lady Michelle Obama.

Playing with iPhone’s New HDR Camera

Along with several much-appreciated bug fixes, version 4.1 of Apple’s iOS for iPhone, released this week, brought with it a few new features.  I’ve been playing with one of them: built-in high dynamic range (HDR) photography. 

HDR is, Wikipedia tells us, "a set of techniques that allow a greater …range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard …photographic methods. This …allows HDR images to more accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes."  In photography, the effect is accomplished by taking multiple exposures of the same scene, then merging them algorithmically.  I’ve done some HDR experimentation previously using my Canon S90, which does the necessary exposure bracketing, but actually getting an HDR photograph required, at minimum, uploading the pictures to the computer, firing up the image editing software, and running an HDR process to merge them.  Depending on the software you were using, it could be more complicated still.

With iOS 4.1, the procedures is somewhat simpler: turn HDR on, and take a picture.  All of the processing is done in-device.

By default, iOS saves both a standard and HDR image of each picture you take, which makes it very easy to do A/B comparisons.  Here, for example, are both versions of a picture I took outside the mall last night.  Notice the greater definition to the lights in the picture on the right.  There is also variation in shading visible in the lamp shade at the top left of the HDR image that is blown out in the standard shot.


Here’s another example, taken at the same location in a different direction.  As before, there’s less bloom around light sources like the Barnes & Noble sign, and much more detail visible through the store windows in the HDR shot.


Keep in mind that these are all handheld shots with a camera phone—at night, an area of particular weakness for the iPhone historically.  Particularly arriving as it does within a free iOS upgrade, I have to say the new HDR feature is pretty fantastic.

Never Forget


E-books During Taxi and Take-off

I’ve heard a key motivation behind the FAA requirenent that people “turn off and stow all personal electronics” at the start and end of a commercial flight is that airlines don’t want passengers stumbling over laptops and the like while trying to deplane during an emergency. But I wonder: is there any reason to think that something as compact as a Kindle or an iPad is any more distracting or cumbersome than a newspaper or paperback?

As a frequent traveller, I can certainly appreciate an abundance of caution and a “better safe than sorry” attitude. But as a taxpaying iPad owner, I think I can reasonably expect that some of the ridicolous waste I fund with my tax dollars be diverted instead to something truly worthwhile–like funding a study confirming my suspicion that e-books can safely be put on equal footing with the dead tree variety during taxi and take-off.

Apple iPad Case Micro-Review

…based on four months of use.  Aesthetically: I like it a lot.  Looks good.  Nice texture to the surface; it’s nice and grippy.  Easy to slip the iPad into and out of.  Clever folding design that lets you angle the iPad for typing or viewing.

Cons: it could provide better protection; I am not kind to my gear, and while the case cover is fairly stiff, the soft back of the case provides only minimal protection.  The back of my iPad has gotten significantly dented and dimpled during its time in my briefcase.

Bottom line: a nice, reasonably economical case, as long as you’re not abusive to your electronics.  If you tend to bang things around, you might want to look into something that offers more protection.