Friday, December 19, 2014

Clipart … I am easily amused …

In preparing a document for a certain tax-related agency that has really screwed me this year by moving the office that processes a certain set of forms to a completely new location with no warning on the website (is that vague enough?) I ran across some really nice clip art to simulate stamps on forms. Very cool …

What do you think?

Note: When you paste these into a Word doc, you can immediately adjust them to float over or under text and get the effect you desire. I really like these.

I would have demonstrated here, but Word still does not play nice with Blogger.com (pathetic, really) and Writer does not have advanced formatting options (equally pathetic, really.)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Lights at Extreme ISO

Ok, I admit to being lazy when I shot these … but I was walking the dog and carried the GM1 in my pocket just for the halibut …

My next door neighbor did a nice job of decorating his property …

Yes, you can see massive grain and some funky color because these are shot at ISOs like 12800 etc … but for snapshots they are ok.

A few houses down is the most brightly lit house on the street … I really like this look …

His next door neighbor also has quite a few decorations and they really complement one another.

This next one would suit Halloween more than Christmas … creepy …

It was shot at 25600 by the way …

I plan on walking around with the dog when we get a nice fresh blanket of snow in order to capture the lights at low ISO. Stay tuned …

Winter is Come

A recent storm has left us with a foot of snow on the ground and we are suddenly in the middle of the dog days of winter, which really just means that you have to bundle up to leave the house and you have to brush or scrape the car every time you want to drive it. It’s a drag … but then we get those glorious sunny days that make it worth living in this part of the world …

Tell me that isn’t an inspiring vista … that’s taken from my yard …

Sophie quite likes the new look of her world, as she happily walks on the soft snow without issue. The salt bothers her when it is around, but right now we have a soft snow cover that is pleasant on her feet.

And of course she has no problems using the soft blanket as a bathroom …

And again, my neighborhood … so nice to look at on days like today …

I’ve always been partial to sunlight on brick … it just works for me …

The northeast is pretty nice if you don’t mind the odd storm to wreck your day … the views in sunshine are so worth it …

Thursday, December 11, 2014

National Geographic Fat Shaming Sign Debunked

A sign showing a skinny silhouette with an arrow pointing to the stairs and a fat silhouette with an arrow pointing to the escalator is a very unsubtle form of fat shaming. One was used in a National Geographic video documenting behaviors and their causes. No doubt they thought it was for a good cause, but of course it was based on a complete bullshit premise, actually two. That fat people never take the stairs, and that taking the stairs prevents obesity.

Ridiculous assertions that nevertheless find their way into society through the musings of the uneducated and the downright mean.

But you should read the coverage of this story and take a look at the original clip from the video at Yoni Freedhoff’s blog Weighty Matters.

Meanwhile, I’ll embed the video that Yoni made showing that even the world’s foremost experts on obesity know that taking the escalator is not going to seriously impact your weight loss goals.

The old adage “you can’t outrun your stomach” is as true today as it ever was …

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What is a Confident Idiot?

Well, according to this article by David Dunning from a few weeks ago, it is you, me and everyone else Smile

Credit to Weighty Matters, the blog of Joni Freedhoff for pointing me to that article. If you are not the perfect weight or if you succumb to fad diets a lot, you should be reading Yoni.

The article is interesting in so many ways. A few quotes to tempt you to go read it:

The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise.

Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack.

What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.

He talks a lot about the “confidently misinformed”, a particular state in which someone has acquired a great deal of knowledge, but – and I am paraphrasing so you should go read the article – has passed this knowledge through a set of internal filters that have twisted it into something other than cold hard fact. For example, a lot of people have to ascribe intent to evolution to feel they understand it.

An example used is that Cheetahs run fast because they, as a group, realized that they would be able to catch more prey so they taught themselves how to run faster (again, paraphrasing.) Of course, what evolution really means is that faster Cheetahs are sometimes born by a fluke (think of how many world-class sprinters exist) and these faster cheetahs catch more food, live longer, and make more babies. Ergo, the slower cheetahs die out over the long run.

Everyone wants to apply patterns of behavior they have seen in one situation to other situations. The article goes into some depth about how we thought the planets stayed in orbit back in the 1500s and how even the greatest minds at the time would answer a question incorrectly on how a ball would travel once it left the confines of a curved pipe, for example. The article discusses the author’s study in some depth and this topic is great reading. I am deliberately being vague to encourage you to go read it. The link, again:

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/confident-idiots-92793/#.VH3gaut3LH5.twitter

The author explores another brilliant example – the “at-will” clause that so many American employers cherish as the key to complete freedom to fire people for any reason at all. I will leave you to explore the article itself to find out what the scoop is on that, but trust me that the traditional defense of “people agreed to the clause” is completely misleading and is just another way in which rampant capitalism has eroded the work force.

(See what I did there? I applied one concept inappropriately to another area. No one is entirely immune Smile.)

Another excellent quote that explains a lot of what we see on the news and on open forums everywhere:

Every day, however, people rely on the cognitive clutter in their minds—whether it’s an ideological reflex, a misapplied theory, or a cradle-born intuition—to answer technical, political, and social questions they have little or no direct expertise in.

The article later goes into detail on why “wild-west” environments like the Internet have such rampant misinformation. Paraphrasing a bit, it is pretty obvious that people hear what they want to hear. Which means that a sentence that contains the work “not” can easily be interpreted to the opposite meaning by those that already believe the opposite. Sad, but that’s how our brains seem to work. Arguing with accurate information often leads to hardening positions of the misinformed.

I see that latter issue all the time. I was that guy when I first joined DPReview. But now I’m that guy who gets impatient with the truly obtuse who bravely soldier on with their utter nonsense because they have intuited a completely false bit of knowledge. Rampant BS is ambrosia for the misinformed. I just coined that, by the way … so remember where you got it. :-)

Generally, you should not put simple facts on the Internet unless you make perfectly clear what you are saying. They use a great example that again I will let you find for yourself.

There’s a lot more in there that you should find out for yourself. It is a great read. I will leave you with one final truism from the article:

The built-in features of our brains, and the life experiences we accumulate, do in fact fill our heads with immense knowledge; what they do not confer is insight into the dimensions of our ignorance.

Like everyone else, I struggle every day to understand how much I don’t know. If you don’t struggle with this, then either you are truly enlightened and have a deep understanding of yourself, or you are just another confident idiot. I will leave it for you to read the article and then decide ….

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

LCD Panel Shoot Out for Angle of View – DELL IPS versus NEC MVA versus HP TN

So … I have been upgrading the man cave to allow me to work on many things at once. My job requires a great deal of reading, some programming, and a lot of talking. And I like to keep separate concerns on separate monitors. One of those concerns is my work laptop, which is connected into the VPN at work and is online at all times (except when I am travelling and it is in a bag.) Since I only want one keyboard and mouse, I log into the laptop via Remote Desktop and leave it in full screen mode on its own monitor.

Of course, when I had only one monitor, that was a major drag. Constantly flipping windows to change contexts drove me nuts. So of course I acquired a second monitor. And more recently, there have been more separate concerns and I acquired another monitor. That necessitated a second video card. And so on …

The top left screen is my very first LCD panel. It is a 20” 1600x1200 NEC AccuSync 200VX, which sports an MVA panel – one of the first LCD technologies to be able to offer 178 degrees angle of view in both horizontal and vertical directions. It remains an excellent panel.

Top right is my second monitor, a 23” 1080p DELL U2311H I think. This one uses an eIPS panel, which is the less expensive variety of IPS. IPS is the technology you want if you process images etc, as it offers excellent color fidelity. It also offers excellent angle of view, matching MVA.

The bottom right is also a DELL, the spectacular U2410, which has an H-IPS panel in it. A truly great panel and one of those 24” panels that has the original 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the becoming more common 1080p. This gives me much more room to work and I have to say that the panels look huge. This one was being sold on Kijiji by a young fellow at the University of Ottawa, and I got it for 220 bucks. Not super cheap, but for a large panel that can be calibrated to within a whisker of perfection, I don’t mind. The equivalent panel today is something like 400 to 500.

The bottom left is the lowly TN panel … something I thought I would never again buy. Well, I succumbed to the temptation because it is a gorgeous panel with very good angle of view horizontally and excellent sharpness and contrast, which comes from what HP calls “Brightview Technology” … marketing speak for “good.” And when reading Kindle books etc, it is nothing short of breathtaking. You can see how nice it looks in the image above. Bright and clear, just like the marketing team wanted you to believe. And I got it for 50 bucks, which makes the deal very sweet indeed.

However, it is far from perfect, as you will see in a moment. As I sit here with Gallery up on the HP, all the light text on dark background in the 4 inches from the right side is invisible. TN panels are notorious for having very poor angles of view. The standard is loose, so they often report 170/170, which is nonsense. The honest ones report 170/160 or 160/160. But that is still nonsense. In fact, horizontally you can already notice color shifts at the edges, just from the few degrees they are off center with respect to your eye plane. Vertically, they are often abysmal and this HP is even worse than that.

So … this test is pretty simple. Shoot them from below, above and far left. There is no room to shoot from the right, but you will see that the side view is very telling regarding the differences in these technologies.

Shooting from about 45 degrees from below shows that there is nothing going on. You can still see them perfectly. In fact, if there is anything to complain about, it would be that the DELL 24” might have issues at angles. Top right is not looking so good.

From above, the two IPS panels are looking a tad darker. The MVA looks amazing, and the TN also looks amazing. It does have a slight advantage, as it is tilted slightly upwards, but it remains near perfect.

Note: The HP is in portrait mode, which means that these two shots were testing its horizontal angle of view, which is always better on TN panels than the vertical angle of view. So what about its vertical performance, which I have telegraphed is going to suck?

Well …

OMG!! Yes, it really does that. In fact, I have Gallery running on it right now, and all the text on the right side is invisible. The angle of view is the worst I have ever seen.

Luckily, for my purposes, this is not an issue. But wow …

So the takeaway is that there is a very good reason why anyone doing color work would want IPS panels. There really is no contest. MVA has morphed over the years to A-MVA, and it definitely good for watching movies and working at angles to the screen. But color accuracy remains the domain of IPS. Even the cheap(er) eIPS panels are very good once calibrated.

And a plug for Kijiji … these two monitors are huge and really help with my work … I am amazed. And for the price of one decent smaller monitor, well, the value equation is excellent. I also got a smaller Samsung monitor in the summer on Kijiji. For 20 bucks. It is attached now to the MAC Mini for PianoMarvel duty. Although you have to be careful with Kijij, it can be a source of some decent monitors.