Monthly Archives: February 2006

Google Page Creator

Google Page Creator (GPC) is a free service from Google that enable the users to create web pages using online tools. However, at this point, the service is flaky: I keep losing my changes due to disconnection problem. I will revisit this service after a couple of weeks; at that time, I hope the quality of service should be improved.

Adding photos and links to a page is easy. A photo can reside on the web (you supply the URL) or on your local machine (GPC will upload it). While a link to email or URL works, link to a local file shows some problems. I tried to link to a local .pdf file and GPC automatically upload it and made the link works–OK so far. When I try to link to a local .html file, GPC uploads and created the link just fine; but when I tested the link, it only shows the first line of the file.

I like GPC for creating pages that is free of clusters and ads (they might introduces ads later, but I hope they will be text ads per Google’s tradition).

2006-02-28 Update
Since yesterday, the service is more consistent. Today, I did not even notice the “disconnected” problem. I am not surprise because I expect the inconsistency in quality of service during the beta period. The more I use GPC, the more I appreciate its professionally designed templates. These templates are simple, elegant, aesthetic, and easy to read.

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BubbleShare.com: a quick photo album

I discovered BubbleShare by accident. It allows a person to upload photos online and share the album via email. Furthermore, we can also add the album to our blog such as the example below. I like BubbleShare for not having to register to use the service, just supply an email for notification when the upload is finished. Furthermore, we can add audio commentary to each photo, up to 30 seconds per photo.



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Get Driving Direction from Your iPod

Do you use Yahoo to find driving direction? Do you own iPod Photo (or later)? If you answered “Yes” to both questions, you are a prime candidate for a useful service: iPod iWay (IPIW).

How does it work? At the iPodiWay site, submit your starting point and destination, IPIW will return you a .zip file with a series of .gif images (001.gif, 002.gif, and so on), each contains one or more instruction. All you have to do is to copy these images to synchronize with your iPod. At driving time, just view those images in sequence and follow the instruction.

You might wonder, “Why images? Why not text?” The answer is simple: the .GIF images allows for larger font, which is helpful when you are driving. Besides, the .GIF format does not take up that much space. The direction from my home to the airport 30 mile away only takes up 104KB of disk space–puny.

What not to like about it? Instead of just print out the direction on paper, you have to synchronize the images with iPod–not an easy job for some users. Also, when driving, operating the iPod to read the instruction is much harder than just picking up the paper and read.

Despite the shortcoming above, I think iPodiWay is an excellent service that increase the usefulness of your iPod.

Links:

Ning.com Social Application

I picked up somewhere that Ning is a hot place for creating online social applications so I checked the site out. After a couple of visits, I concluded that Ning is not that practical.

The idea behind Ning is online applications that users can use and contribute to it. For example, Ning has a Bookshelf application which allows users to review books that they read, or mention books that they want to read. Users can also add their own reviews to other people’s books. If you like the idea, but want to use that application for something else such as movie review, just clone it. I have not actually cloned any app, but it seems straight forward.

The problem with Ning lies in the fact that it only has a handful of core applications we can clone from. That means if none of those applications fit your need, you are out of luck, unless you can create your application from scratch.

The second problem with Ning is the applications are single-minded. What do I mean by that? Let’s look at Yahoo! Group (YG) for example. YG offers its users many features such as discussion, photo album, file depository, database, poll, calendar, … These features make up a comprehensive online community. A Ning application just do one thing, and it does not do it well enough to stand out.

In conclusion, after playing around with Ning for a few days, I do not see any value Ning can offer me. Keep in mind that this is my own opinion, there are plenty people who will beg to differ. If you are curious about Ning, give it a try. It might fit your needs or it might not.

Links:

Panasonic DMC-LC1 Impression

Previous cameras

To put into perspective where I came from, here is a list of the cameras that I owned in reverse chronological order:

  • Panasonic DMC-LC1, a prosumer-level point-and-shoot that is the Leica Digilux 2 twin.
  • Canon A610, an excellent compact point-and-shoot camera.
  • Fujifilm F10, an outstanding lowlight performer that can pump the ISO to 1600 while maintaining resonably low noise.
  • Panasonic DMC-FX7, one of my favorite: small, image stabilization, 2.5″ screen, excellent picture quality.
  • Fujifilm S2Pro, a DSLR that I still own. It has excellent picture quality, hard-to-beat skin tone.
  • Nikon Coolpix 5000. I have too many thowaways with this camera. It works well for somebody, but not me.
  • Nikon Coolpix 995. I quickly sold this one to get the Coolpix 5000: I did not like the swivel lens.
  • A Kodak 1MP camera whose model has long escaped me. This was my first digital camera.

Of the ones in the list, the cameras that I currently still own are: LC1, A610, and S2pro. I keep the A610 in the car most of the time for those quick captures. My wife loves the S2 despite its large size and chunky lens. I hope the LC1 will replace my S2 for most situations.

First Impressions

My first impression of the LC1: it is heavy on the left side so one-hand operation is difficult, but not impossible. The camera is well built, I am impressed at the quality of the doors and hinges, especially the battery door: it is the best battery door among the P&S I have encountered. I get confused between the zoom and focus rings; time will fix that. The menu is not the easiest to use–just enough to get by. I prefer the A610’s and S2’s menus.

The white balance is not consistent; my Canon A610 leaves the LC1 in the dust in this department. If I only move the camera just an inch, my picture might go from perfect white balance to a warmer (or colder) tone.

The lens barrel has three rings: the zoom, the focus, and the aperture ring. Since I spent a good deal of time on my DSLR, I am used to operating the zoom ring. In fact, I prefer this method over zooming with the thumb or index finger. To enable autofocus, lock the ring to the AF or AF-Macro positions. For people who used the good old film range finder cameras, the aperture ring should be familar.

These are my first impressions. I will update this page regularly. Please send me any comments you might have.

2006-02-11 Update

Today, I took the kids to the park and brought the LC1 to test outdoor pictures. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my 1GB SD card and had to get by with a puny 16MB one. Thus, I set the picture size to 1280 which is one size larger than 640; I also set compression to the most agressive. That allowed me to take more than 30 pictures.

To my surprise, they are very vibrant and I do not think I have any problem with 4×6 prints. Overall, I think the color is excellent: warm, bright, and vibrant. The only complain I have against the color is the LC1’s sky seems to be lighter than what I got from my Canon A610. In the future, I might bring both cameras out and test my theory.

While I do not usually take photos at wide angle, I found myself dialed to 28mm as often as 90mm. What set the LC1 apart from the other cameras is how intuitive it is. To zoom, just turn the ring. Need flash? Pop it open. Need aperture priority mode? lock the shutter dial to A (automatic) and dial the aperture ring. My wife, on the other hand, dislike the camera’s large size. She said she would rather use our even-bigger Fujifilm S2 because after all, it is an DSLR.

A second complain I have against the LC1 is the shutter lag. There are some instances when I try to capture a running kid and ended up taking the picture sans kid. This is the problem that prompted my wife and I to purchased our DSLR in the first place.

2006-02-12 Update

Today, I took the camera out for more pictures. I found the LC1’s auto white balance works better in the sun than in the shade. In the shade, the automatic setting renders the picture with a blue cast. My Canon A610 has no problem in this situation. I am sure that if I custom set the white balance, the colors will be dead on. However, custom setting might not be practical because I constantly switched between the sun lit and shade areas; it would be a pain to remember switching the white balance settings accordingly.

2006-02-25 Update

Yesterday, I took the camera for a walk where I frequently step between the sun lit and shaded areas. I found it hard to view the pictures on the 2.5″ LCD, so I switch to the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and found it not very clear. Before I purchase the camera, I was aware of this limitation. However, as I now experienced it, I found it annoying.

The square lens hood add very little weigh and dimension to the camera, but it helps to shield the lens from flare. For that reason, I keep it on most of the time. I recommend you do the same. At least, keep the hood and the square cap in your camera bag so you can use it outdoor.

Problems with Google Web Accelerator (GWA)

In a wimp, I installed GWA on my laptop and instead of saving time as promised, I spent hours trying to finish the installation process alone. In my first attempt, the installation process froze just before reaching the 100% mark. No mater what I did could kill the beast, so I finally had to resort to holding down the power button to turn off the system.

After restarting, I had to deal with system problems such as freezing, hanging, browser hangs (IE, AvantBrowser, and FireFox) along with other countless irregularities. I could not even uninstall the program.

Finally, I attempted to run the installation a couple of times before I can completely uninstall the beast. GWA might work for other people, but not for me. I am now happy again without it.