Canon PowerShot SD800

In addition to my Canon S2 IS, I have been using the Canon PowerShot SD800 since October. Carrying around a pocket sized camera is so much more convenient. I never thought I would buy a camera with less than 6x zoom, the SD800 has 3.8x. It also starts at 28mm instead of the usual so it gives me a nice wide angle but means that 3.8x zoom gets even less up up close. Even though I give up the huge 12x zoom when using it, I don’t miss it too often. I usually know when I will need the good zoom. And in those cases I usually carry both cameras.

There are several reasons for still using this camera when I carry the S2. It is wider angle, can shoot in lower light, and seems to have better colors. The colors thing may be in my head, but I think for at least the wide angle shots the colors are much nicer out of this camera. Zoomed in you loose some of that and a bit more sharpness than I like.

Reading some user settings recommendations from similar SD models on Flickr, they say to turn AI Auto Focus option off. That is partially for speed but also gives you control over what is in focus. I turned it off because then it matches my S2 and I like choosing what I focus on. I turn multi point focus off in any camera I use including a couple of film SLRs. I rather focus in the center and reframe. That way I know what is in focus and don’t have to worry about the camera cycling through the focus points while I loose the shot. Maybe I just haven’t used the right camera, but so far I don’t like AI Auto Focus.

Compared to my Canon S2 IS this camera produces slightly softer images. But I think that is just due to the much smaller lens and squeezing an extra two megapixels out of the same size sensor. Looking at some other shots in the pool, it certainly isn’t only my camera. DCResource has a really thorough review and says, “Sharpness was where I prefer it: not too sharp, not too soft.” I would like it to be a bit sharper, but its not bad. I am very happy with this camera.

I shoot a lot of macros of bugs and anything else small I can find. Mostly I use the S2, but the SD800 does a good job too. It can’t get nearly as close as the S2’s super macro, but does produce nice macros from a few inches away.

I always thought I wouldn’t like such a small camera since working the controls and just holding it would be awkward with my long fingers. But that hasn’t been a problem at all. When I bought it, I had no idea I would like it so much.

Last week my SD800 took a dive onto a hard floor and didn’t survive. I got a Lens Error message and grinding noise when trying to turn the camera off and the lens is stuck in the extended position. So I sent it in for repair. It is still under warranty, but drops aren’t covered and they were able to tell from the internal damage to the lens that it was dropped so it is costing me $115 for non-warranty repair. Not bad since a new one would cost $300. Hopefully it will be back soon. I miss it.

Free Christmas Gifts for Kids

If you haven’t got around to shopping for gifts for kids at this point you are probably in trouble. Most of the good stuff is probably gone. But there is still some free stuff online that you might be able to get away with. I guess it would be hard to wrap, but face it, your choices are limited at this point.

LEGO Digital Designer is free official LEGO software that lets you design models, find out how much they would cost to build, and even order the pieces to make it. Obviously that last part is why it makes sense to offer a free Digital Designer, but up till then its just fun.

ArtRage 2 Free Edition is really fun for playing around with making art. The interface is pretty unusual, but kids should adapt easy. Making art on the computer is a lot less messy than in real life and kids can get some exposure to the different types of brushes and other art supplies they probably would not get otherwise.

Paint.NET is pretty good too for those a bit older who want to mess around with photos or drawing or those who just want to make squiggles and scribbles. I didn’t go into it very deep, but it looks pretty good. I used to use paint programs with about that level of features when I was in middle school.

Sebran’s ABC wasn’t my favorite of what I found, but I am not really the target audience. It doesn’t seem as polished as the others but is more educational and aimed at younger kids.

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory looks great if you aren’t worried about top of the line graphics and stuff. I tried it a few years ago and didn’t like it much, but I have never been much of a gamer. I want something that is easy and fun rather than something where I get killed over and over again.

Rockstar Games has three classic games updated to run on modern PCs available if you give them your email address including the first two Grand Theft Autos.

Scorched 3D is based on the classic DOS game Scorched Earth that we played in computer class almost daily in high school. I have not tried this update, but it looks a whole lot nicer.

If you are really geeky, you might setup Tyrian 2000, and official remake of the original Tyrian which I loved years ago. It was released by the author as freeware. The site says it might require DOSBox. Without any effort it ran for me in Windows XP, but it was choppy and had no sound.

And finally, Railroad Tycoon. I have never played it, but it seems to have lots of fans. It looks a lot like the first SimCity.

Mark Twain Offers Blogging Tips

He be dead for nearly a century, but Mark Twain knew what it takes to be a good blogger. The Mark Twain Guide to Better Blogging. Surely this article was written mostly as link bait, but that doesn’t mean its any less interesting. Not only is it funny to be getting advice from an old dead guy on technology he couldn’t have dreamed of, he is right. He knew what his audience wanted and he gave it to them. As the article says, Twain would have really loved blogging.

Here is another Twain quote I found relevant to blogging:

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.”

A Game of Cat and Mouse

cat catching mouse

You might notice I have added a flickr badge in the header of my blog (which wasn’t easy). I just got into using flickr yesterday and I am proud to announce I already have a photo that has been viewed over 1000 times and favorited fifteen times and its not even noon yet. This is that photo.

Certainly adding it to the wallpaper pool that just got dugg helped, but it was over 140 views before I did that this morning. The four other photos I added to that pool have not seen nearly this response.

As for how I got the shot. Part luck and part carrying my camera around frequently. I just got home and saw Dash playing with something so turned on my camera and nine shots later captured this one. Some others in the series can be found in my Action Cat set.

Google Notebook Status Bar Hog

If you use the Google Notebook extension for Firefox, you may notice it takes up a lot more space than necessary. I have a number of other extensions that place icons in the status bar so wasting space with useless text bugs me. It would be nice if Google included an option to hide the text and only show the icon, but that seems unlikely. Luckily it is not hard to remove the text yourself by adding this rule to your userChrome.css file:

#gnotes-statusbar-lbl {
display: none !important;

See the Mozilla wiki for more info on userChrome if you need help.

Halloween 2006

My Halloween was really fun. We have been decorating my parents house for Halloween and scaring kids for over 10 years. The reason I know it has been that long is, my mask has been Ghostface since before it was used in Scream in 1996. I always knew I had the mask before it was used in Scream and finally ran across this confirmation:

Craven found the off-the-shelf item at a house where they were location scouting in California. The mask was originally created by Fun World.

compare Scream Ghostface masks Once they used it in the movie, I decided to stay with it. This year I finally got a replacement Ghostface as mine was getting a bit worn and dirty and I finally found a good quality one to replace it. The cloth is not quite as good as my original and it is cut a bit smaller, but the thinner cloth makes it a bit cooler. The face is now made of vinyl instead of (I think) latex so it holds is shape much better.

We put up graveyard this year for the first time. I really liked it. I lit each grave up with a battery powered glow stick. They are a bit brighter than chemical glow sticks. They are more expensive but last between 10 and 24 hours depending on the brand (and price) and can be used again next year. Of course, if you keep your decorations up for more than one night neither is a good option, but due to frequent strong gusts of wind and vandals I only put out the cheapest stuff and lights until Halloween day. I never wanted to put up a graveyard for the same reason. I always figured some jerk would kick them over or damage them or the wind would get them. To lessen the chance, I put the nicer ones closer to the house. Thankfully none were damaged though several stakes were badly bent from the wind. The half nearest the sidewalk lost their glow sticks before the night was over. Some trick-or-treaters are just jerks. Those weren’t the first things to disappear over the years.

Other than that and my fog machine not working, this year was really good. Kids started showing up around 6:20pm but it was kind of slow until just after 8:00. We figured that is when school carnivals ended. Our last trick-or-treaters showed up around 9:45 just as we were about to shut down. I was able to scare lots of kids and parents and didn’t make any little kids cry. Since I am sitting out in the open I can see who I am scaring and can do less or completely skip scaring them if they look too young. Which also has the benefit of confusing return visitors. I may not have scared them this year so they are sure I am fake and I can get them even better next year.

Looking through the pictures I counted about 70 kids (trying not to count parents) and we only took pictures of a small portion. Here are a few of our pictures:

Haunted House Trick-or-Treaters Me as Ghostface

Happy Halloween

Halloween Fonts just in case you need to make any last minute posters in creepy fonts.

Ghosts of Halloween is a site for a pretty elaborate yard haunt. It is very impressive, but I am happy with my much smaller one night haunt. He has a really nice grave yard which is a new addition to my yard this year. Maybe I should have visited there before to pick up some tips. Anyway, I did one thing I like better, I left some grass unmowed around the grave markers to make it look a little more unmaintained. I bet the neighbors though we were nuts with a bunch of unmowed spots in the yard.

Spirit Halloween Online Store has a 50% off sale on whatever they have left until midnight tonight so you can stock up for next year cheep. I ordered a few things and I am lucky to have a physical Spirit store located nearby so will be shopping there tomorrow to see if there is anything left worth picking up that I couldn’t get online.