Early Thanksgiving

ApplePie
We had a Thanksgiving dinner at our Church for our College class. I teach our College aged Sunday School class and since many of them are going home this week we had a good meal. In preparation for this past Sunday’s lesson I researched Thanksgiving and learned some stuff I didn’t know. There are many stories as to the origin of Thanksgiving. The one I kept running across had to do with an Indian named Squanto. Legend goes that he was kidnapped and taken to England where he was taught English and was then used for interpreting. He returned to America and was promised to be returned to his tribe only to be kidnapped by another English Captain and taken to Spain. Some Spanish Friars heard about how Squanto and other Indians were being sold into slavery and they took them and taught them about Christianity. He then returned to America with another English Captain and returned to where his tribe had been 10 years previously only to find they had all died from a plague. Squanto then settled in near the Pilgrims that had come and ended up helping them with growing food, building homes and other things. That winter nearly half of the Pilgrims died and the following year they celebrated what is traditionally known as the first Thanksgiving feast after having good crops that season.
Like I said earlier, I’ve already had a really good turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls and apple pie meal. I’m thankful to God for how he has blessed my family and how he shows himself to me all the time through family, friends photography and many other avenues.

  • Camera: NIKON D70
  • Aperture: ƒ/3.2
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/40s

Interface lift

Ran across this site from Brandon. It has tons of GUI enhancements like wallpapers and icons etc. I’m always looking for new wallpapers, for some reason I can’t have the same one for more than a week at a time! :)

Golden leaf

Golden leaf

This is another shot from my walk a couple of weeks ago. I think that day was probably the most productive shooting time I’ve ever had. Many times I’ll go out and come back with one or maybe two that I like enough to post. I ended up with 10 to 15 that I really like from that one day. I think the light was about at perfect as it gets for an autumn day. Hopefully you enjoy them as much as I do. As far as processing on this shot, I did a duplicate of the main layer set to overlay then unsharp mask to sharpen it a bit. Then a couple of selective burns.

Buildings of a bygone time

Buildings of a bygone time

Felt like breaking out of the nature shots. This is an old abandoned building downtown. I’d like to venture in for some shooting, but it’s all locked up and the police probably won’t take kindly to my entering uninvited. I stood there thinking about what sounds and sights might have been around this place in the past. What kind of business ran in and out of this? What sort of people were employed there?

OQO Handheld PC

I’m not sure how they pronounce their name but I guess it’s just how it looks OQO. I’ve had many handhelds, both Palm and Pocket PC based. I like both of those operating systems equally.
OQOKeyboard
There are things the Palm does better than the Pocket PC and vise-versa. Both of them irritate me in different ways as well. What I really want is Windows XP on a hand held. The OQO Model 01 is just that. Far from perfect, I’ve been pretty impressed with this little machine.
The fact that this device runs Windows XP means you have all of the same applications you normally use on your laptop or desktop available to be used. Not that you are likely to use Photoshop on the 5″ screen, but you could! One deterent for using this as a replacement to your Palm or Pocket PC is the price. You can pickup a fully packed handheld for $500 and you can get a good one for under $200. The OQO Model 01 is $1600 and the Model 01+ is $1900.

OQO

The OQO is bigger than all other handhelds, but it also sports a much larger screen at 5″ diagonally. It’s not really something that you will slip into your pants pockets unless you are sporting the old parachute pants and unless you are MC Hammer that’s probably not a good idea.
Performance is suprisingly snappy. I wasn’t so sure about the processor since it’s a Transmeta Crusoe, not a processor I’ve had any experience with using Windows. I had no problems running Firefox, Outlook and several other applications and unlike Palm and Pocket PC you can truly multi-task and have several applications open at once. I did some tweaking of Windows to slightly improve the performance, like turning off XP’s themes and turning off a bunch of services that aren’t really used or needed. The 20gig hard drive leaves plenty of room for the OS, applications, documents and mp3’s. There is no speaker, which I think it should have at least a little chincy one for the occasional Windows beep or notification. I connected it to my car stereo through the headphone jack and was impressed with the sound.

OQO

One small irritation is heat. It does get warm after extended use. The fan in it tends to ramp up to deal with this heat and in quiet situations it can get rather loud. The battery life is pretty good. Their website says upto 3 hours, depending on usage and this seems pretty acurate. The device has built in WIFI and Bluetooth. I had no problems connecting to wireless access points at home and at work. I don’t own anything Bluetooth so I can’t report on that. One little issue seems to be with losing the WIFI when you turn off the WIFI radio and Windows comes out of Stand By and or Hibernation. An update available on their website seemed to help this, but not totally cure it.

It takes a little getting used to waiting for it to boot up since we are used to instant on of Palm and Pocket PC. Boot time is a little over a minute, though if you hibernate instead of turning off this waiting time this is greatly reduced.
Here is my wish list of improvements:
1. USB 2.0, transferring files through USB 1.0 is slow. The device has Firewire but I don’t have anything Firewire.
2. Heat, not sure how to handle this and still keep up with good performance
3. Boot time. It’s XP so I’m not sure how they can improve this.
4. Lower price. I understand the limitations of this but it’s pretty steep at $1600. If I hadn’t of got my hands on this because of work there’s no way on earth I’d buy it on my own.
5. Speaker. Even a cheapo little one. I don’t want to listen to music through it, but I’m used to hearing Windows notifying me, plus calendar/alarm sounds would be useful.
6. Video Ram. 8mb of video ram just doesn’t cut it these days. It needs to be at least 32 and 64 would be great!

The packaging for the device was very sharp and reminded me of the quality packaging that Apple tends to use. I like how solid the desktop stand is that comes with it.

OQO

It also came with a docking cable that is a bit odd.
I plugged a monitor, network cable, keyboard and mouse into the docking cable and it became a full fledged desktop PC.
Since it’s not a Palm or Pocket PC it doesn’t have any sort of syncing software for contacts, calendar and such that you would normally want on a handheld. At my work we use Microsoft Exchange server, so running Outlook 2003 with an Exchange account running in cached mode takes care of this quite nicely. Simply open Outlook while connected to the network with your Exchange server and it gets all of your email, contacts, tasks and calendar up to date. When you run Outlook while disconnected from the network it uses a local copy of your Exchange mailbox and you have access to all those important tasks and appointments!

OQO

The transreflective screen means it looks absolutely great even in direct sunlight! Windows runs at 800×480 and with an external monitor attached it can run 1280×1024.
As far as input is concerned there are several ways to interact with Windows. The keyboard has an eraser head pointer with left and right mouse buttons on the far left. Their placement makes using them quite comfortable. There is also a pen like what tablet PC’s use. It’s performance is a bit sluggish and when you get to the edges of the screen it can be a bit troublesome. Along the bottom edge of the device is also a wheel that can be used to scroll through documents and can be clicked to change volume, switch applications (alt-tab function) and launch applications that you select.
Overall it’s a really impressive device and I’ve been using it alot. I’m excited to see Model 02 that I’ve read is supposed to come out sometime next year. Now, let’s combine all this functionality with a camera and phone (with decent monthly rates) and I will truly be in heaven.
Check out this video from their main site it does a good job of introducing this sharp little device.

  • Camera: Canon PowerShot SD300
  • Taken: 10 November, 2005
  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Focal length: 5.8mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/8s

Standing still

Standing still

As I was walking along this deer and a smaller one stepped out into the creek and were drinking water. I had my shorter lens on and was a good distance from them. I slowly and quietly changed lenses and snapped a few, but they just seemed too far away. So I slowly crept along the edge hiding behind trees. Every so often they would pause and look my way but they didn’t take off. So I moved in closer and closer. Then I paused and snapped this one which turned out the best. I had to crop it because I was down in some trees and brush without a totally clear view. I started moving closer when they either heard or smelled me and they left in a hurry. There was another moment when I was sitting on the railroad tracks shooting when a larger deer stepped out onto the tracks not far from me but too far for the 50mm. I went to change my lens and as I lifted it up to shoot he took off.

Water across rocks

Water across rocks

Ps 46:4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
Joh 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Forest trail

Forest trail

Oh my goodness, the 50mm 1.8 rocks. Brandon and I ventured out today for some shots. Check out his duck shot for today, the colors will knock your socks off! Unfortunately Brandon wimped out early and I ventured on alone to find some great trails. At first glance anyways, I think some great shots too. (At least I think so :)

Update: Since a couple of people said something about Black and White I did it up. I still prefer the color because I just love the browns and yellows in it.

More Missouri Fall

More Missouri Fall

Hopefully you aren’t tired of the fall colors yet, I just keep thinking in a month or so it’s all going to be gone and I’ll regret not shooting more of these awesome colors surrounding me. I finally finished the biography of Ansel Adams and it was definetly interesting reading.

Microsoft Media Center 2005

For the past couple of years, Microsoft has been pushing its Windows Media Center Edition PCs into stores and households around the world. I was more than a little skeptical when inquiring about Microsoft new product. The name alone Media Center sounds like a good way for Microsoft to sell you a bunch of extra hardware and software youdon’tt need. Actuallythat’ss not the case at all, well for the most part.

Windows Media Center 2005 is the newest version of Windows XPand is one of Microsoft’s slickest products in recent memory. Basically it’s Windows XP with Media Center added in. All the drivers have been optimized to let Windows be displayed on a TV and look good.

Media

For those who haven’t heard about Media Center or had a chance to see a Media Center PC in action, it’s basically an all-in-one home entertainment device. Media Center PCs act as a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) to let you record, pause and rewind live TV (like TiVo), allow you to play video files, music, pictures and more. All this is great, but who has $1,000.00 to spend for another PC to act like TiVo? Well the answer to that question is complicated, but I’ll try to help you with it.

A 40-hour TiVo box is $199.99, plus a monthly service of $12.95, or $155.40 a year. If you already have a PC, and want TiVo functionality, Media Center is the way to go. The TiVo part is great, but you also get so much more. You do not need to go out and buy a “Media Center PC”. Your existing PC can be converted into a Media Center PC fairly easily, and at a reasonable price.

To covert your existing PC into a Media Center PC, you will need two items.
1. Microsoft Windows Media Center 2005 with a remote control, and IR box. (Approximately $150.00)
2. TV Card certified to work with MCE-2005 by Microsoft. See list here. (Average Price $75.00)

For a little more than the price of TiVo Hardware, not including the service, you can have a Media Center PC. Not bad eh? Now you can connect your PC running Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to your TV, and you can enjoy your favorite computer and TV entertainment all from the same spot in your living room. You can enjoy live and recorded TV, DVDs, music, photos, and more on the big screen from the comfort of your couch and you can control it all with a single remote.

Okay, this is great, right? Well what if you want to leave your Media Center PC in the office, and still have all the Media Center features to work on the TV in the living room. This is why you upgraded in the first place, right? Well you don’t need to buy another PC, now you only need to buy a Media Center Extender. For the price it would cost to add another TiVo box (199.99) you can buy a Media Center Extender box. The extender would plug into your entertainment center in the living room, or whatever room you want to use Media Center in. Now you virtually have 2 Media Centers with all the features of TiVo, plus access to all your movies, pictures, and music that’s on your office computer!

The media center interface is extremely easy to use, and will be fun for the entire family. Check back in a few days, and I’ll show you how to add-on to a common house hold component to get the same features as a Media Center Extender for only 30 bucks! If you have any questions, leave me a comment, or email me at brandoncrain @ hotmail dot com.

New addition to the family

Nikon50mm

The Prahl family has once again increased by 1. No, we haven’t had any more children. But, the arrival of a new lens to the Prahl-Nikon family has been met with joy and happiness. The little guy is just as cute as a button and with a maximum (or is is minimum? I get it confused all the time) aperature setting of 1.8 he is quite impressive. Here is a sample I took this morning just messing around. Notice at the 1.8 setting how it blurs the background. Here’s another of my son doing some sort of trick he said. It works really well especially when taking portrait like shots of people. I bought it used off of Ebay for $79 including shipping. B and H Photo has them new for 95$ to 100$ not including shipping. It’s a little wierd using the lens because it’s a fixed focal length were as my other two lenses are zoom type so you have to move yourself in and out more to get the shot framed the way you want. Overall it looks to be a great addition to my camera equipment.

Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

Ergonomic 4000I’m picky. I like my chicken just so. I like my steak just so. I like my keyboards just so as well. I’ve used the ergonomic keyboards for several years, but the last few models I haven’t liked much. They tended to creak and just not feel right. The early ergonomic keyboards were great and solid. The problem is that I can’t seem to use the same equipment more than 6 months before getting something new and improved. It’s a disease and I should probably seek some counseling.

So, I had been using a Logitech keyboard for sometime, but I’ve been wanting to get back to an ergonomic keyboard. I went first to Microsoft’s hardware site. As soon as I saw the Ergonomic 4000 I knew I wanted it. It looked slick and I loved the black color so I ordered one. It took several weeks to get it because they had just came out.

I’ve been using it now for about a week and it’s easily my favorite keyboard yet. The keys feel great. They are super quiet, which some people may not like. It has none of that noisey click click that some of the more sturdy keyboards have. There’s no creaking noise like some of the past ergonomic keyboards have either. The hand rest is super nice. It is soft with a leather like feel to it. It has the multimedia keys along the top and 5 programmable buttons as well. While I programmed each one I rarely use them though. It just takes discipline to use them instead of launching apps the way I normally do. The software for the keyboard installed without problems. It has a zoom slider between the middle keys that basically enlarges the font on web pages and I don’t really use that either. There is a back and forward button below the zoom slider for webpages, but I’m too used to using the buttons on the side of my mouse to go back and forward with. Overall it’s a great keyboard so far. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Ergonomic 4000

Old factory

Old factory

This is my first image posted from shooting in RAW. I have to say that it’s extremely cool as far as the controls you have over exposure and white balance and a ton of other options. I’ve just been using the CS2 raw plugin and I’m really liking it. On another note I got a new lens and should post something from it in the next couple of days. It’s a Nikon 50mm 1.8 and I haven’t really had time to play just yet.

Napoleon sleeps

Napoleon sleeps

Continuing shots of people this week. I’m pretty sure this guy was sleeping. He’s on a bench just outside the Navy Pier in Chicago. I titled it Napoleon sleeps because he reminded me of the guy from Napoleon Dynamite, which is a very funny movie. The other great thing about it is it’s not your typical Hollywood big budget junk. Plus it’s a clean movie. I think the worst word in the movie is maybe “Idiot.” And to hear Napoleon say it is quite funny.

Play the Bagpipes

Play the Bagpipes

Reaching back into the archives. I’ve taken some new shots but haven’t even taken them from the camera yet. I’ve started shooting in exclusively Raw finally and haven’t worked on getting me a good workflow, so I’ve been putting off processing for a couple of days. I’ve also been reading a biography of Ansel Adams which seems to be taking me forever. The other thing that’s been taking up my time is watching past seasons of 24. I’m not a TV person so I generally don’t watch TV shows, mostly because I can’t stand commercials. That’s a discussion for another day. But I’ve found that watching TV shows on DVD is so cool. So my wife and I have watched all of Season 1 and 2 of 24. We are 3 or 4 episodes into Season 3 right now.

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