Older blog entries for steve (starting at number 219)

Help Preserve Vivitar History!

Want to help preserve the history of an American camera and lens company? Let me tell you a story…

I’ve been using some of my spare time in the last few years playing with vintage cameras and lenses. I search for interesting vintage items at estate sales and online. I recently came across a very unusual lens, the Vivitar Professional 180mm f/2.8. It’s large, heavy, very good quality, and completely unknown. It was attached to a Pentax Spotmatic camera that I picked up for a few dollars and no particular significance was placed on the lens (it’s just an old Vivitar, right?) There was no trace of this 180mm lens to be found online until I started posting queries and information about it. No printed Vivitar price list or lens resale list that I’ve consulted had any record of it.

I took my mysterious Vivitar lens to Don’s Photo Equipment to see what they thought. Their conclusion was that I had either a one-of-kind prototype or a custom-made lens. The serial number suggests I have copy #2, so it’s highly likely that at least one other copy existed at one time. The lens is badged “Vivitar Professional” which is itself a rare thing. Only one other lens is known to have been made with that badge, the Vivitar Professional 135mm f/1.5, a lens designed and built for NASA in the 1960s, a small quantity were also made for sale to the public (some say as few as 30 were made). A little online research has turned up at least 3 existing copies of the Vivitar Professional 135mm f/1.5 that occasionally sell on eBay when one owner gets tired of it and passes it on to a new owner. It appears the 180mm may be even less common.

I hope to find time to shoot a series of test images with the lens soon. For now, I do have photos of the lens itself as well as one sample image I shot with it during a recent model shoot on the Texas-Pacific Railroad Bridge south of downtown Dallas (check out the rest of the photos from that shoot too!)

As I seached for info on my Vivitar Professional 180mm I realized just how little is known about Vivitar. German lens companies like Carl Zeiss or Japanese lens companies often have huge websites devoted to them and numerous books written about them. But there is almost no historical research to be found on Vivitar. I’m trying to remedy that by putting some work into the Vivitar pages on Camera-wik.org. I’ve been slowly piecing together Vivitar’s corporate history from old newspaper archives and scraps of info gathered from patents and other government filings. I’m also compiling a comprehensive list of lenses and other products they marketed. They sold a large number lenses designed and manufactured by a dozen different companies. Trying to piece together the lens families and an accurate lineage of each lens is proving to be quite a challenge.

And this is where you can help out in preserving this piece of America’s photographic history! I need two things: 1) Vintage photography magazines from 1938-1978 with lens reviews and Vivitar advertisements (e.g. Camera 35, Modern Photography, Popular Photography; Vivitar also advertised extensively in Playboy and Popular Science in the latter part of the time period). If you’re reading this and have any old camera magazines with Vivitar info from that time you’d like to get rid of, let me know. I’ll put them to good use, including scanning any public domain advertising and making it available to vintage camera researchers on Camera-wiki.org. 2) If you have any old Vivitar lenses of any kind that you were thinking of dropping off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army, send them my way instead. I’ll photograph them, review them, and add the data to Camera-wiki.org. And afterwards, I’ll give them to the photography group at Dallas Makerspace where they’ll be used as loaners for local photographers.

Syndicated 2011-09-01 04:59:58 from Steevithak of the Internet

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

Happy July 4th, everybody (or to the handful of people who read this blog anyway). Rather than go to one of the big fireworks shows this year, we decided to stay home and enjoy the air conditioning. I can hear neighborhood kids setting off illegal firecrackers down the street as I write this. The cats are curious about the noise.

Over the last several months, I’ve continued playing with vintage camera equipment but I’ve slowly been transitioning from shooting with vintage roll film cameras to SLR and DSLR cameras with a variety of vintage lenses. I started out with a KMZ Helios 44-2 lens that came with a Zenit SLR. I’d been wanting a Russian camera for Commie Camera Day. I used it to shoot photos of some vintage Russian MIGs. Then I picked up an M42 to EOS adapter so I could play with the lens on my Canon 40D.

In April I found a bargain Yashica YUS 135mm f2.8 lens. With a Y/C to EOS adapter it works great on the 40D. In May I came across a Soligor 300mm f4.5 with Nikon mount. I can use it on the 40D with, you guessed it, a Nikon to EOS adapter but it also mounts on Susan’s old Nikon FM as well. The Trinity river basin picked this time to sprout millions of bright yellow Mexican Hat flowers, turning the Trinity Greenbelt into a yellow belt. I hauled all my new old lenses along and tried them out, along with my old old Canon 300mm f4.

I’ve continued experimenting with film as well. With the help of Steve Reeves, I managed to get some color photos from a roll of 1968 Ektachrome that I’d found at an estate sale.

Other than photography, nothing new on the art front. Despite our clock doing really well in last year’s SEED auction, I wasn’t able to get in this year. But I’m still hoping to be involved with this year’s ArtCon somehow, if not as an artist, at least as a volunteer.

One project that has been taking up lots of spare time lately is scanning. I’ve been scanning family photos, negatives, slides, and documents dating from the early 1900s to the present. I’ve scanned several thousand items already and there are many, many more still to do.

I’m still taking it easy on DPRG and Makerspace activities but I’m beginning to feel a little more motivated and may try to get a project or two going again soon. Ed and I have been talking about Noise Boundary a little lately, so more robotic music hardware is one possibility.

Syndicated 2011-07-05 02:48:02 from Steevithak of the Internet

Goodbye Camerapedia. Hello Camera-Wiki.org

When I became interested in vintage cameras, I discovered an invaluable website called Camerapedia. It was a huge wiki created by a vintage camera geeks from around the world with photos and specs for thousands of cameras. I started contributing in a minor way with what little I could; a new Argus C page here or a new link for the Bilora Bella page there.

In January, I visited Camerapedia to look up some information on a new Kodak Retina IIa. What I found instead was a disturbing discussion about Camerapedia itself. One of Camerapedia’s most prolific contributors had revealed some inside information about a brewing take-over of the site. Brandon Stone, the website’s founder and, unfortunately, sole owner of the Camerapedia domain name had entered into some sort of secret negotiations with an unnamed company to sell the domain.

There was a lot of concern about the refusal of the parties involved to offer any explanation or even name the company. It turned out they may have been justified as the company was Wikia, not exactly a well-liked name in the Wiki community. For those not in the know, Wikia operates something like the Borg from Star Trek. They move from one free community wiki to another, assimilating them through unfriendly, if not unethical, means. The content from each wiki is moved to Wikia’s ad farm, the old domain name redirected, and Wikia takes control of the administration of the Wiki, leaving the community as little more than unpaid workers supporting Wikia ad profits.

Obviously no wiki wants this, so how does Wikia get away with it? One of Wikia’s tricks is to target a wiki in which a single person controls the domain name. They offer a tempting sum of money to this one person to sell Wikia the domain name. Wikia then announces to the community that they’re going to “help” the community by providing them free hosting. This is the part where a Borg representative shows up on the main viewscreen of the Enterprise and says, “You will be assimilated, resistance is futile. Your technology will be adapted to service the Borg.

By the time the Camerpedia community realized what was happening, the domain name had already been lost and only days remained before the domain became nothing but a redirect to Wikia’s servers. Fortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as Wikia had hoped. A rebel force quickly formed among Camerpedias admins and contributors. Even though I’d been only a minor contributor, I had the privilege of becoming technical lead for the “rebel alliance”.

It was January 25 and time was critical. Wikia put the Camerpedia site into read-only mode that day, which meant they’d started the assimilation process and we now had only hours left. During the day I began receiving page lists and other information from inside sympathizers. Luck would have it that this was a Tuesday, so I skipped my usual DPRG Robot Builders Night Out meeting and stayed late at the office coding.

I set up a database and installed MediaWikia on a local server. Meanwhile, a Perl script was collecting XML exports of pages and edit histories from Camerpedia. By midnight, the export was complete and I started loading the data into my local MediaWiki. For a 10,000 page wiki, this was a time consuming process that continued throughout the night.

Without direct access to Camerapedia’s database, it wasn’t possible to get user account info. None of the sympathetic admins had access to the data either, so the backup plan was to export the public user listing and grab all the user profile pages. However, Wikia finished the assimilation and the old site went dead before that could be completed. I had a partial user listing and was able to get a large number of user profile pages, however. I wrote a quick Perl script that evening to generated random passwords and create an importable CSV file of user data.

Thursday evening, I skipped my usual Dallas Makerspace meeting and spent the time reconstructing the correct MediaWiki configuration to make the site actually work. Camerapedia relied on an assortment of MediaWiki extensions that took some guessing to figure out. I hadn’t thought to save the old version info page and Wikia reconfigured things on their assimilated version of the site.

While I was busy with geeky stuff, Voxphoto and others worked on selecting a new name and other organizational issues. As you may have guessed, the site is now called Camera-Wiki.org. Simple but descriptive; plus it had the advantage of all three major TLDs being available as well twitter and Facebook namespaces.

There were still more minor hurdles over the next weeks as we operated largely in secret. The new website was live on a local development server but before we could launch we had to find inexpensive scalable hosting. The community was already making donations to pay for the hosting. It seemed like a conflict of interest to host this at my facility, so I suggested Dreamhost. I’d had a good experience with Dallas Makerspace’s MediaWiki site hosted there. We opted for two virtual private servers, one running MySQL and one running Apache. Low-end VPS systems are not as fast as physical servers but are easily scalable, allowing us to start out cheap and scale as traffic increased.

Voxphoto started a Camera-Wiki flickr group and we began quietly letting other contributors know what we were up to. Membership in our group grew quickly and thousands of photos began pouring in. As with the original Camerapedia, the new Camera-Wiki.org, doesn’t host photos. We embed flickr photos hosted by the individual contributors. This saves money and bandwidth for us and makes it much easier for people to contribute a photo.

However, the hosting arrangement with flickr presented one difficulty for us. Camerapedia had a policy of accepting non-CC-licensed photos by using a blanket usage license that the user agreed to when submitting a photo to the Camerapedia flickr group. The wording mentioned Camerpedia by name. With a different name, it was no longer clear that we still had permission to use those images. Time to write another script.

This time I wrote a PHP program that used the MediaWiki API to export a list of every flickr image in the wiki. Then it used the flickr API to retrieve the license, user, and group affiliations for each photo. If a photo was CC licensed, we ignored it, if the user was a member of our new group and had already granted permission, we ignored it. What remained was a list of about 1,500 photos with potential copyright issues. This list was moved into a page on the wiki and we crowdsourced the problem to the editors. In most cases we were able to contact the photographers and get permission, in others we were able to replace them with CC images or images from our own group.

Interestingly, Wikia faces a similar problem with their assimilated version of the Camerapedia site. Many of the contributors allowed their photos to be used under a CC license that prohibited commercial use. Wikia is a for-profit company whose business is using those photos to sell ads. So far, they’ve made no effort to remove these photos, despite multiple direct complaints from some of the photographers asking for their removal.

We’re now very close to making an official public launch and things have slowed down enough for me to write this overly verbose blog post. I need to give credit here to all the Camerapedia admins and contributors like Voxphoto, Uwe, Dirk, Hans, HaarFager, Süleymandemir and many others, who did a lot of hard work to make this happen (sorry, I know I’m leaving out a lot of names there!). Voxphoto has been busy working on the new Camera-wiki Blog and keeping our Twitter feed going. He also designed our interim logo (a bit of a joke on the idea of forking a camera site). Vox and the other editors have also done a massive amount of work on the wiki itself, adding new pages and improving old ones.

I should also thank the many MediaWiki developers, experts, and users I sought help from along the way. More than once I was helped by people who identified themselves as “Wikia survivors”, some whose wikis had successfully escaped the takeover as we seem close to doing and others who lost their wiki and eventually gave up and moved on to other interests.

Finally, this is still an ongoing struggle and you can help. Let people know that instead of Camerapedia, they should be using Camera-Wiki.org now. Camerpedia was a well-recognized source of vintage camera information and there are links to it all over the web. Unfortunately, all those links now point to a domain that redirects to Wikia and their ad-encrusted, outdated version of the content. If you see one of those Camerapedia links, take a moment to change it or email the webmaster and let them know to change it – from camperpedia to camera-wiki.org – and maybe before long we can say for sure that the Borg didn’t win this one.

Syndicated 2011-02-27 19:13:04 from Steevithak of the Internet

Goals and Resolutions

January is the time of year for setting goals and checking to see how I did on last year’s goals. It’s probably more interesting to hear about things I’ve done or tried and failed to do than to hear about what I plan to do in the future. I’ll stick with the former. We get enough of the latter from our politicians.

I achieved a lot of my minor goals and resolutions last year. I relaunched my blog, made reasonably regular blog posts, and consolidated my online presence under a single name, I got a couple of nice photo essays into Robot magazine, I did two photos shoots with models, got some photos into a museum exhbiit (at their request even!), I repaired and shot usable photos with several vintage cameras, I finally participated in the 24 hour video race!

I also did a few things that weren’t on my ToDo list but were still really cool, like speaking at Pecha Kucha, demonstrating robotic music to an art class in Denton, hearing the Buzzcocks play live, painting highway pillars in Deep Ellum, and meeting lots of cool people.

But the one really big thing from 2010 has to be helping to get a Dallas Hackerspace started. Back in January 2010, Ed and I hatched the plan. Through the first half of the year Ed and I were meeting weekly at Cafe Brazil or where ever we could find free WiFi, planning and organizing, trying keep things rolling. I also got invaluable advice starting out from folks like Sarah Jane Semrad. During the first half of the year, it sometimes felt like Ed and I were pushing a train up a steep hill. I took on way more projects than I could possibly do but somehow managed to get most of them mostly done (thanks to getting lots of help from friends).

Towards the end of 2010, Ed took a job in Pittsburgh but things had gathered so much momentum by then, that instead pushing a train up a hill, at that point it felt like the train had crested the hill and was accelerating down the other side, with me hanging on for dear life. The group gained so many new members that it took on a life of its own. It didn’t quite turn out the way either Ed or I expected but that’s a good thing – it proves the group can survive without me or any one person at this point. I’m looking forward to being just a member of Dallas Makerspace in 2011 and having more free time to devote to other ventures.

There were goals I didn’t meet in 2010. I had set a goal of doing one Noise Boundary performance per month but that fizzled out after April; initially because I was too busy with the hackerspace and later because my partner in noise, Ed, left Dallas. I utterly failed to get the long-awaited libxml2 HTML parser patch into mod_virgule. I did spend time on it and it’s very close with only one annoying bug yet to solve. I also have software patches for Apache and ChucK that didn’t get submitted. Garage renovation plans were thwarted by a series of set backs.

Some of those things will get bumped to my 2011 list along with a lot of new goals and resolutions. Will I get anything done in 2011? Stay tuned to find out. I plan to have fun trying at least.

Syndicated 2011-01-23 05:33:38 from Steevithak of the Internet

Random Holiday Updates

It’s nice having a few days off for Thanksgiving! Yesterday we had a nice family Thanksgiving dinner. Afterwards our family tends to break into two parts, those who want to watch sports on TV and those who don’t. I’m the latter group of course. We played a variety of games including a four hour marathon session of Mexican Train dominoes. I lost pretty badly this time (but I expect to make a comeback during the Christmas holidays).

My niece also tried out us old folks on an iPhone app that guesses the names of real or fictional characters by asking a series of questions. The trick is, even if you beat it, the app learns the identity at the end and adds the personality to its growing database, making it harder for the next person to win. Susan tried first with a fictional British spy but it guessed Napoleon Solo pretty quickly.

I had better luck with a fictional character from the 1930 pulps. After asking a zillion questions, it finally gave up, making me the only winner of the evening. Who was my character? Professor Jameson, an Earth scientist who was the first fictional character to be put into a cryosleep-like state after death; awakened millions of years later by a machine race called the Zoromes who placed his brain into a robot body and reactivated it. An obscure character but an important one, inspiring both Asimov’s robot stories and Robert Ettinger, the “father of cryonics” in the real world. Collecting a fairly complete set of Professor Jameson stories is only possible with the help of eBay and a lot of research. But it was kind of cool to point out afterwards that I had authored a fair amount of the Wikipedia article on Neil R. Jones, author of the Professor Jameson stories.

Besides holiday fun, there’s been a quite a lot of activity since my blog post last month. The TEDxSMU project went very well. There’s a nice TEDxSMU recap. with links to photos and video over on the Dallas Makerspace blog. Speaking of Dallas Makerspace, we also pulled off a successful first annual open house. Blog post and video will be up soon. We’re estimating between 150 – 200 people were there; way more than we expected. We also did a small art and technology discussion at Art Bytes, part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s late night program.

The downtime during the holidays has also given me time to ponder my over optimistic list of 2010 New Year’s goals and plans. But it’s not too late and I still hope to check a few more of them off before 2011 rolls around. In fact, I better get to work on that right now…

Syndicated 2010-11-27 00:12:10 from Steevithak of the Internet

Pecha Kucha Night 4

Time to catch up on things, starting with Pecha Kucha Night 4. October has been so busy it seems like ancient history but it was only a couple of weeks ago. So what is this Pecha Kucha thing? It’s an evening of short presentations given on a wide variety of subjects. The Pecha Kucha presentation format is 20 images for 20 seconds each. That means each presentation is precisely six minutes and forty seconds long. The images advance automatically so the talk has be timed to match.

The PKN4 speakers met for a combination pot luck dinner and Pecha Kucha primer at Sarah Jane Semrad’s house the weekend before. I enjoyed the dinner as much as any other part of the event; maybe more. You always hear people talking about who they’d invite to their fantasy dinner – maybe Stephen Hawking, Philip Glass, and Heidi Klum or some other weird combination. Well, that’s exactly what the PKN4 pot luck was. We had an NPR commentator, a well-known chef, a tattoo artist, an architect, an artist, a human rights attorney, a violinist – well, you get the idea. It was an amazing group of people to have dinner with.

Over the next couple of days, I used Open Office Impress to assemble my presentation. You didn’t think I’d use Power Point did you!? With Susan’s help, I went over and over the talk trying to perfect the timing.

The big event happened on Wednesday night, Oct 13. Susan and I got to the Wyly Theater early. I went to the green room to join the other speakers, nervously reading cards or pieces of paper on which we’d scrawled notes. Janice Provost suggested jumping up and down to burn off our extra energy, some of us had wine to calm us down, others had Cokes to keep their energy level up. Nick Ley powered up his electric cigarette. I was so fascinated by Nick’s cyborg cigarette, I talked him into taking it apart so I could see how it worked.

At the pot luck, I had jokingly said I’d go first. I found out in the green room that I really was going first. Doing my first ever Pecha Kucha presentation in from 300+ people and going before all those talented speakers – yikes!

Sarah Jane introduced me and I fumbled my way to the stage in the dark. Once I got out to the podium, got the microphone in place, and Brian hit the start button, there was no turning back. For the first 30 seconds or so I was really freaked. I think my hands were shaking. But about a minute or so in I realized it wasn’t any different than practice and everything was cool. In retrospect, I think I could have improved things a lot but overall it turned out ok.

The subject of my presentation was Dallas Makerspace, the first hackerspace in Dallas. I wanted to explain why Dallas needed a hackerspace and give a quick overview of the projects we’ve done in our first year. The gist of it was that we need to make Dallas weird. Dallas is sadly boring, a “cultural wasteland” as someone put it recently.

Halfway through the series of presentations we got the traditional Pecha Kucha beer break. I met up with Susan and we got drinks. I started getting positive feedback from random people almost immediately. Lots of questions about the hackerspace; how could people join, when did we meet, where was it located, that sort of thing. I’ve talked about hackerspaces to dozens of local groups over the last year but I’ve never seen that many people in one place who instantly “got it” before now.

Afterward I was really glad my presentation was first for two reasons: 1) I got to listen to all the others without worrying about mine and 2) the other talks were all so amazing, mine would have seemed pretty crummy if it had come after them. They were all so different it would be hard to pick a favorite.

Cathy Miller’s explanation of the origin and evolution of Cathedonia was hilarious; Bill Holston’s stories of helping people get asylum in the US was amazing, Elizabeth Wattley’s story of a college turning it’s football field into a working organic farm was so cool (if only we could get every school to dump sports programs for something useful and educational!).

Richmond Punch let his violin do the talking, Mark Gunderson gave us an architectural philosophy lesson, Bruce Lee Webb took us on a whirlwind tour of his favorite folk artists, Jessie Zarazaga showed us urban designs that we can hope will influence the way things are done here in Dallas, Buck and Camp explained life in Marfa, Nick Ley showed us amazing tattoos both historical and modern, Janice Provost told us how a chef can make the world a better place, and Rawlins Gilliland closed out the night with tales from his childhood that prove truth is stranger than fiction.

After the talks were finished, Janice invited everyone to Parigi for an after party. Most of the group showed up there. Susan and I had never eaten at Parigi before but we’re definitely going back. The food was wonderful.

So thanks to Sarah Jane and Brian for organizing Pecha Kucha and giving me a chance to do a presentation! And thanks to all the other speakers for a fun and interesting evening!

There wasn’t any video of the event but you can see a few official photos, read a D Magazine review/>, or a Pegasus News review. StealingKitty also wrote about PKN4. And if you want to know more about Pecha Kucha in general, listen to the recent NPR story.

Syndicated 2010-11-01 05:00:26 from Steevithak of the Internet

TEDxSMU and Pecha Kucha

TEDxSMU and Pecha Kucha Dallas are both coming up this week. I’m doing a Pecha Kucha talk at the Wyly about Dallas Makerspace on Wednesday night. There may be a few tickets left if you want to come out and watch me make a fool of myself by pronouncing Pecha Kucha wrong in front of a lot of people. Mostly I’ve been telling people I’m doing a Pokémon talk because that’s easier to say.

Thursday I’m helping Dallas Makerspace set up our interactive art project at the Wyly for the TEDxSMU events on Friday and Saturday. The Dallas Makerspace TEDx team has been working weekends and overtime on this project for the last several weeks trying to get it all finished on time. This past weekend we got to the point of doing the first full-scale hardware testing. It was really cool to see all the parts working together and we’re looking forward to showing off what we’ve got.

Syndicated 2010-10-11 20:46:52 from Steevithak of the Internet

Return of the Big Boppers

I was re-reading Rudy Rucker’s Ware series recently, starting with the 1982 book, Software. There’s an interesting exchange about the death of Sta-Hi’s father that occurs when Sta-Hi runs into Cobb Anderson for first time time since the Big Boppers gave Cobb a robot body. Like much of the story in the ware series, it’s an early foreshadowing of Rucker’s later non-fiction book on universal automatism, titled “The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. For the uninitiated, universal automatism is the idea that everything in the universe boils down to computation. Rather than describe it, I’ll just quote a little piece of the exchange and let you ponder it.

The robot began to talk then, slowly, and in Cobb’s old voice. “Listen to me, Sta-Hi. Sit down and listen. I’m sorry your father died. But death isn’t real. You have to understand that. Death is meaningless. I wasted the last ten years being scared of death, and now…”

“Now that you think you’re immortal you don’t worry about death,” Sta-Hi said bitterly. “That’s really enlightened of you. But whether you know it or not, Cobb Anderson is dead. I saw him die, and if you think you’re him, you’re just fooling yourself.” He sat down, suddenly very tired.

“If I’m not Cobb Anderson, then who would I be?” The flicker-cladding face smiled at him gently. “I know I’m Cobb. I have the same memories, the same habits, the same feelings that I always did.”

“But what about your . . . your soul,” Sta-Hi said, not liking to use the word. “Each person has a soul, a consciousness, whatever you call it. There’s some special thing that makes a person alive, and there’s no way that can go into a computer program. No way.”

“It doesn’t have to go into the program, Sta-Hi. It is everywhere. It is just existence itself. All consciousness is One. The One is God. God is pure existence unmodified.”

Cobb’s voice was intense, evangelical. “A person is just hardware plus software plus existence. Me existing in flesh is the same as me existing on chips. But that’s not all.

“Potential existence is as good as actual existence. That’s why death is impossible. Your software exists permanently and indestructibly as a certain possibility, a certain mathematical set of relations. Your father is now an abstract, non-physical possibility. But nevertheless he exists!”

The books of the Ware series include Software, Wetware, Freeware, and Realware. The first two were winners of the Philip K. Dick award. These well-known early cyberpunk books have been released in a single volume titled The Ware Tetralogy. You can get the dead tree version from Amazon if you’re like me and still prefer the feel of a real book in your hands. Rucker also offers The Ware Tetralogy as a Creative Commons licensed download in PDF format, suitable for most readers, tablets, phones, or direct download into your brain if you have the necessary USB port on your skull.

Syndicated 2010-09-26 16:27:42 from Steevithak of the Internet

Photography Update

I’ve been so busy helping to get a Dallas hackerspace started that I’ve neglected my blog again. But I haven’t been too busy to continue my photography experiments. On the vintage camera front, I’ve acquired a few new items including an Ansco 1065 fixed focus 35mm and a nice postwar Argus C3. I’m hoping to get the Argus C3 cleaned up and functional in time for Argus Camera next week. So far it’s looking to be in much better shape than the prewar Argus C3 I found last year.

I’ve also made some progress on my goal of doing more photography of actual humans instead of just still life and landscapes. In June I got to do a photo shoot in Deep Ellum with Ofa Santos, a beautiful Filipino-Chinese model. In July I did a very colorful shoot with Lolly Five, a model from Alabama who was in town for the ScrewAttack Gaming Convention (SGC).

Speaking of SGC, I shot a few SGC event photos. I also shot photos of many amusing protest signs at several of the Westboro Baptist Church counter protests in Dallas and Arlington. And if protest signs aren’t your thing, how about art clocks? I shot a lot of photos at the 2010 Art Conspiracy SEED auction, where clocks designed by local artists were auctioned for charity. The new Dallas Makerspace built one of the clocks and ours drew one of the highest bids of the auction.

Finally, I got several paying photography gigs during June and July. Looking forward to more of those in the coming months. It would be nice to do enough paid photography work to start paying for new camera gear!

Syndicated 2010-08-03 20:08:44 from Steevithak of the Internet

Facebook Twitter Woes

For the last couple of years, I’ve been using the Facebook App called Twitter. It’s written and maintained by Twitter and its purpose is sync your Facebook status to your twitter feed. There’s a similar app for Myspace and other social networking sites. That means I post my status once to Twitter and it almost instantly updates my status on Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, and a dozen other sites, saving me a lot of time.

Sometime around May 11, the Facebook Twitter app stopped working. Or, at least, it stopped updating the Facebook status field. Instead all it does now is post your tweets to your wall. To most users, it appeared the Twitter app had simply stopped working since it was no longer performing its main function. This generated a lot of discussion in the Facebook Twitter App forum as more and more users reported the breakage:

By May 13 there was still no official response from Twitter on what was going on, so user tim.neumark filed a bug in the Twitter API database.

The next day Twitter API developer tokofu claimed Facebook had asked Twitter to make the change:

“We made a change to use a newer Facebook API to add content to the stream that no longer updates status. We think it provides a better experience based on what Facebook is asking developers to do.”

“You can always manage the settings Twitter has with Facebook through your Edit Applications tab.”

What’s meant by that last sentence is unclear as there is nothing in the indicated dialog that changes the behavior of the app in any way with regard to updating status.

Tokofu’s post was the nearest thing so far to an official statement on the breakage. This was followed by several days of people posting comments on the bug report noting that “better experience” is not how they’d describe a bug that breaks the app’s ability to perform its primary function. The flurry of comments prompted Twitter to close the bug report as “invalid” and users were asked to stop commenting.

Shortly afterwards on May 18, a new issue appeared on Twitter’s help pages in the “Known Issues” category: Twitter updates my Facebook wall but not my status

There was new spin on the story now. Instead of claiming it was an intentional change requested by Facebook to give the users a “better experience”, they seem to claim it was the unexpected result of moving to a new Facebook API (didn’t it occur to anyone to test it?!) They further claim Twitter is now “working with Facebook to see if there’s a way to push updates with the new API in a manner that updates both your wall and your status”. The issue has accumulated over 60 comments from users asking for the problem to be fixed, or for Twitter to revert to the older, working Twitter App until a fix is found for the new one.

After three weeks, neither Facebook nor Twitter appear to have made any progress on fixing the problem and most users of the Twitter app still have an empty status field. Oddly, third party Twitter apps such as Smart Twitter continue to work normally, so many users of the official Twitter app have switched.

Posts on the Facebook Twitter app discussion forum suggest that the move was an intentional effort by Facebook to cripple the Twitter app because Facebook viewed it as cutting down on the number of potential page hits for Facebook. By blocking remote status updates, Facebook could force users to log in and update their status manually, garnering more advertising views. It’s unclear (to me at least) whether there’s anything to this rumor or whether it’s pure speculation on the part of frustrated Twitter users. If it’s accurate, then I would expect Facebook to deprecate the old API that allows apps to update user status, disabling all the third party Twitter-to-Facebook apps as well. That hasn’t happened yet.

Given Facebook’s history of bad decisions and gaffes lately, I’m ready to believe anything.

Syndicated 2010-05-30 04:09:26 from Steevithak of the Internet

210 older entries...

X
Share this page