Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

First 1080p video from Canon's new 5D MkII – Amazing!

November 30, 2008 54 comments

My father and I got our 5D MkIIs on Friday and we could hardly wait for the batteries to charge. He took his to SF to test its vaunted low-light performance and posted this 60-second 1080p clip (along with other resolutions) on his SmugMug site: Click to watch it auto-sized for your monitor or check out the full 1080p resolution (caution – *high* bandwidth! UPDATE: Apologies if you tried to watch 1080p on Windows earlier. My bug made it look terrible. Try again, please?).

Here’s his story:

“I had seen Vincent Laforet’s amazing short film, but only in 720p. I knew what an amazing photographer he is and wondered how close an everyman like me could come to footage like that. Could the clips possibly hold up to viewing in 1080p?”

“So with only an hour’s practice shooting my dog licking peanut butter and the neighbor’s kids running in their yard, I left for the city to compare myself to a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with his helicopter, pricey stabilizer, models, set lighting, and post-production experts. I had a few hours and a tripod. What we had in common was the 5D.”

“At first, shooting video on the 5D makes you feel stupid. You’re holding the camera out in front while you look at the LCD on the back and use completely different buttons. I was always wondering if it was in focus, especially at the wide apertures I thought you probably needed at night.”

“How dark was too dark? I’d point at things that seemed impossibly dark, like the fishing boats you saw lit with mostly a string of Christmas lights on the bow of one. But I couldn’t tell how noisy the clips were on the viewfinder, so I held my breath and set the camera at ISO 3200. Why? ‘Cus it was lower than ISO 6400…”

“I had just one sekret weapon, same as Vincent: a Canon 200mm f/2.0 lens, not exactly an everyman item. It made a difference and I used it for maybe half the shots, including the opening clip of the couple kissing at Grace Cathedral, the rotating jewelry in the shop window, the hotel entrances, and the TV reporter. The city skyline was shot with an f/4 lens and it’s noisy. I also used an 85mm f/1.2 for scenes like the cable car, and toys in shop windows.”

“Dog and kid shots look amazing too, but I have to be honest: I missed many shots of fast-moving kids that I would have gotten with my video camera. Maybe I just need figure out how to juggle zooming, focus, and having the controls scattered across the back of the camera, but it felt like I needed three hands and the skillz of a Cirque du Soleil juggler.”

“So which camera for filming my grandkids? Now there’s a question… This calls for some serious 5D time to answer. Even my wife approves of that message.”

BTW, if anyone else out there is shooting 1080p video with cameras like this and would like their SmugMug Pro accounts to allow 1080p video, let us know. That feature is currently in beta, but we’d love to get a few more people using it. ūüôā

Feedburner hiccup, sorry about that.

October 13, 2008 2 comments

For some reason, Feedburner’s feed of my blog broke over the weekend. Not sure why, but I think I fixed it. Apologies for everyone who’s a few days lagged with my latest posts in their favorite blog reader – it was me, not you.

Categories: personal

Just so we're clear – I love Canon :)

September 24, 2008 23 comments

So you may have seen all the hooplah yesterday over Canon and Vincent Laforet’s amazing Canon 5D MkII footage. I thought maybe a little explanation was in order. First, a little background on me and Canon:

  • I, personally, am a monster Canon fanboy. I have a lot of cameras, and all of them – my collection of happy-snappys, our dSLRs, and even our video cameras – are Canon.
  • Our company is filled with Canon fanboys. We have more dSLR Canon bodies and lenses lying around than I can count.
  • The 5D MkII is the coolest camera I’ve ever heard of. Dozens of SmugMuggers have already pre-ordered them.
  • I’ve been dying to work with Canon since we started SmugMug. We’re a Top 500 website, we reach 6.5M people a month, our demographic is definitely high-end, and Nikon’s already in bed with Flickr. Sounds like a match made in heaven to me.

Ok, so now that I’ve set the stage, let’s talk about Vincent’s movie a little bit:

  • SmugMug had nothing to do with the production of the film. We didn’t even know it existed until we read this post on Vincent’s blog on Saturday afternoon.
  • The entire company caught fire. We lost our minds, we were so excited. Within minutes, we’d offered to provide *unlimited* HD bandwidth to Vincent. Bear in mind this was an unknown, but likely very large, cost with no real tangible upside. But we built this company because we love photography, video, and gadgets – and we’ve gotta stick with what we love.
  • Vincent enthusiastically took us up on our offer, and we all started brainstorming about how we could best release the film. Then we started brainstorming on how great this camera would be for indie photographers and filmmakers, and we lost our minds again. By Sunday morning, we had committed $25-50K to create a community-driven film using the Canon 5D MkII. (Note how fast things are moving – they were moving so fast, none of us had time to catch our breath).
  • We found out that Vincent had some awesome Behind-the-Scenes footage of the making of his film, Reverie, and so of course we offer to host that for free again.
  • The time for release arrived. Now, this entire time, we’ve never talked to anyone at Canon. As far as I knew, this wasn’t a Canon deal – Vincent clearly says Canon told him “You can then produce a video and stills completely independently from Canon U.S.A.”
  • We posted full HD versions of both Reverie and the behind-the-scenes footage for the world to see, crossing our fingers that our bandwidth bill wouldn’t be more than we could bear.
  • Our customers went bananas. Awesome! They’re thrilled we’re interested in this stuff, because they’re interested in this stuff. Ok, great, so maybe this bandwidth bill will pay of in goodwill. ūüôā
  • The press went bananas – both mainstream and online. Awesome! They’re gaga over the user response and the remarkable camera.
  • We got busy (and I personally got busy) telling everyone, press and non alike, who called, emailed, tweeted, blogged, etc that the Canon 5D MkII is a game-changing camera the likes of which we haven’t seen before.
  • Canon asked Vincent to ask us to take Reverie down.


Canon asked Vincent to ask us to take Reverie down.


Being a Canon fanboy, I quickly complied – with a very heavy heart. I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut by one of my heroes. I felt betrayed. I also wrote a few things in the heat of the moment that came out harsher than they should have (and thankfully I didn’t publish what I’d original written – whew!). I’ve now edited my blog post and would like to apologize to anyone at Canon who I offended – I certainly wasn’t attacking Canon’s great employees, I was just lashing out.

But look at it from my point of view. I was risking an awful lot of money on bandwidth (I doubt it would have topped 6 figures, but easily could have been in the 5s) because I’m a camera geek and I love this stuff. Customer goodwill is fabulous, and we love generating it, but we were really doing this because we love the camera, love the passion that went into the film, and love to help our industry. We were hopeful that that goodwill would come back to us someday – but even if it didn’t, the chance to be a part of something as momentous as this film from this camera was worth it. And a good chunk of the company busted their butts over the weekend to make this happen. We could have been playing with our kids or out shooting photographs, but instead we spent the weekend setting things up for Vincent’s release.

And instead of appreciating how generous I thought we were being, and appreciating the monster amount of PR they were getting (better PR than any amount of money can buy), it felt like Canon was arbitrarily cutting us off for no good reason. I found myself asking “Well, if they want to host it on their pages, why don’t they just embed the video from SmugMug? Then they get it for free and we still get to be involved. It doesn’t even have to show our logo or anything – just use Quicktime but use a file from SmugMug’s servers. We’d save them money!”. We just wanted to be involved. And no-one at Canon called or emailed us at all – as I’m writing this, I’ve still never talked to anyone at Canon on this “independent from Canon” project.

In the cold light of the next day, though, I can see that I overreacted. It’s a sign of my passion for Canon and their products. No-one overreacts when some bad company does something stupid. But just look at Apple – the instant they make a mis-step (or even perceived mis-step), everyone is up in arms, ready to lynch Steve. Why? Because their products are so dang good, everyone’s super-passionate about them. So I let my passion get the better of me. I still wish Canon had wanted to work together, or at least let us be part of the project, but does it really matter?

I’m still buying a Canon 5D MkII and, I’m sure, lots of Canon goodies to go along with it. So what are you waiting for? Go get your own. ūüôā

Hot technologies I care about – Sep '08

September 17, 2008 30 comments
Iron Worker by ikegami

photo by: ikegami

I’ve been too busy to blog lately, and for that I apologize. ¬†But here’s a quicky detailing the technologies (internet related and not) I’m excited about right now:

  • Drizzle. ¬†For years now, I’ve felt that MySQL has been doing in a direction in opposition to my use case. ¬†Stored procedures, views, etc etc have added bloat and complexity without offering me anything useful. ¬†Turns out I’m not alone – and thus Drizzle was born. ¬†To say I’m *super* excited about this is a serious understatement.
  • Google & Percona’s MySQL patches. ¬†While I wait for Drizzle, I’m stuck dealing with terrible concurrency issues in MySQL/InnoDB that force us to partition data way before we really should have to, making our system more complex. ¬†It’s crazy having a server keel over when it shouldn’t be either CPU-bound *or* IO-bound but that’s life with MySQL and InnoDB these days – or at least, it was until Google and Percona fixed what I couldn’t get MySQL to fix with our Platinum Enterprise subscriptions. ¬†Open source rules!
  • Flash storage. ¬†I really wish I could talk about this some more (pesky NDAs), but there are datacenter changes coming that are more dramatic than anything I’ve seen in 14 years of working on them. I hope I’ve talked to everyone in the space (and from the companies I’ve talked to, one of them seems to be the *very* clear winner for this upcoming round), but if you’re a storage vendor working on flash appliances and I haven’t talked to you, ping me. ¬†We’re a bleeding edge customer and we’ll put your stuff in production faster than you can deliver it to us. ¬†ūüôā
  • ZFS. ¬†Regardless of flash storage, ZFS is the filesystem of choice – head and shoulders over everything we’ve used or heard of. ¬†The advent of flash just makes this even more compelling. ¬†The downside? ¬†It’s not on Linux. ¬†ūüė¶
  • OpenSolaris. ¬†ZFS is so incredible, my hand has been forced, and we’re about to put our first OpenSolaris system into production. ¬†OpenSolaris is, in theory, the Solaris kernel (think ZFS, DTrace, SMF, high concurrency, etc) with the GNU-like userland (think Linux-like). ¬†In practice, it’s still extremely painful for a Linux expert and Solaris n00b like me to use – even on a single-purpose machine like a MySQL server. ¬†Only ZFS makes the pain worth it. ¬†For development, it’s basically unusable for Linuxers (it’s probaby fabulous for Solaris guys – lucky ducks).
  • Nexenta. ¬†Unlike OpenSolaris, Nexenta *is* the Solaris kernel plus GNU userland. ¬†Unfortunately, it’s not backed by Sun or anyone else I have any relationship with. ¬†Sun has been absolutely the very best technology vendor we’ve ever dealt with in terms of support, technical knowledge, and just plain listening to us, so that’s a big issue. ¬†I wish Sun had taken Nexenta’s approach (or would just buy them or offer support or something). ¬†If OpenSolaris continues to be painful, we may fall back on Nexenta instead – remember, ZFS is the driving factor here.
  • Amazon Web Services competitors. ¬†They’ve been promising they’d be coming out for years now and I’m shocked they’ve given Amazon this much runway. ¬†But I believe a few more are getting very close (can’t say more, again, pesky NDAs). ¬†Now, we’re extremely happy with Amazon, so we have no plans to switch, but competition is good for everyone – and Amazon is a fierce competitor. ¬†Plus there are still gaps in Amazon’s strategy, and if I can mix & match to plug some of those gaps, awesome – sign me up.
  • Memcached. ¬†This one’s been on my list for years, and it’s still way up there. ¬†Binary protocol on the verge of shipping, nice patch to resolve some networking issues we’ve seen, and talk about scabability. ¬†If you’re building web apps and this isn’t a core part of your infrastructure, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Big RAM. ¬†4GB DIMMs are dirt cheap, so if you’re not loading your DB and Memcached boxes to the gills, you’re missing the boat. ¬†Cheap 2-socket 64GB (and relatively cheap 128GB at 4-sockets) are here.
  • Sun Fire X4140 and X4440. ¬†The best 1U (2-socket) and 2U (4-socket) servers on earth. ¬†Despite being late to the game with quad-core, Opteron RAM performance kills Xeon, so these are the servers we’re buying. ¬†You can load them to the gills with 4GB DIMMs, enjoy the dual-power supplies (yes, in the 1U box too), and crank out some great stuff.
  • OpenSocial, Y!OS, etc. ¬†The big boys are finally getting real about getting open and cross-pollinating data and I think we’re finally nearing an inflection point. ¬†We’re hiring a Sorcerer to do nothing but think and build in this space. ¬†I’m sure magic will ensue.
  • Nikon D90 and Canon 5D MkII. ¬†Nikon’s taken the photography world by storm with amazing high-ISO performance, and Canon just announced a DSLR that shoots full 1080p video. ¬†Both look amazing and both are game-changers.
  • Onkyo TX-SR806. ¬†I’m an A/V junkie and this thing is amazing. ¬†5 HDMI inputs (need more?), THX Ultra2 Plus (the low-volume enhancements are *awesome* with young kids sleeping at home), automatic room EQ, decodes every modern audio encoding, etc. ¬†I don’t even use the amplifier section (I have separates), but it’s turning out to be the best Pre/Pro I’ve ever owned. ¬†Sounds fabulous on my gear.
  • iPhone App Store. ¬†That thing is a game changer, and we’re barely seeing the tip of the iceberg. ¬†All the other players have to respond – which is great for you and I. ¬†And talk about a platform that’s a dream to develop on!
So there you have it. ¬†Those are the most important pieces of tech I’m watching these days. ¬†I’ll *definitely* be writing up our ZFS experiments as they come along and I have interesting data to share. ¬†Stay tuned. ¬†
Oh, and if you’re curious about what I *wish* was on the list, there’s really only one thing: ¬†iTunes syncing. ¬†I have two desktops (one at my office, one at home) and two laptops, plus my wife has accounts on my computers. ¬†Keeping those all in sync so that when I update a playlist at the office, the update is waiting for me at home, is a nightmare. ¬†I’d pay lots of money if someone could solve that – seems like iTunes + AWS + a smart coder = solved, no? ¬†Wish I had some time….

Seattle/Redmond dinner update

April 7, 2008 5 comments

Sitting in the Virgin America part of the SFO International terminal. ¬†Talk about an awesome terminal. ¬†Can’t wait to fly Virgin, too – my first time (hah!). ¬†I doubt anyone on the plane throws down in DOOM the way I do, so I expect a river of tears in the aisle.

Wish I could be at the Google Campfire tonight, cuz the news is awesome, but Microsoft got to me first, so up to the frigid North I go…. ¬†Hope this MS stuff is as good as it sounds.

It turns out the Seattle Photography Group is meeting on Wednesday night. ¬†Cool! ¬†So I’m going to that. You should come. ¬†ūüôā

Then, afterwards, I’m hoping we’ll head out for some food. ¬†If you want to get food afterwards, please leave a comment so we have at least a rough head count. ¬†Attendance at the SPG isn’t mandatory, but I’m sure you’re welcome to come.

On Tuesday, I already have dinner plans, but wouldn’t mind hanging out with some geeks afterwards. ¬†Doubt I’m up for going into Seattle, though, so if you’re in Redmond or Bellevue, holler.

(I’ll try to email everyone who sent emails, commented, and twittered – but if you haven’t heard from me, re-comment because I’m lame)

Geek Dinner in Redmond, WA on April 9th?

April 4, 2008 13 comments
Seattle Skyline by Shay Stephens

photo by: Shay Stephens

I’ll be up in Redmond (first time!) for business next week (sorry sweetie!), and have no plans Wednesday evening, the 9th. Anyone wanna get some food, play some games, or just hang out?

Post in the comments.

Categories: personal Tags: , ,

Tripit totally rocks.

March 20, 2008 6 comments

I’ve been telling everyone I know just how great Tripit is, but realized I hadn’t told all of my readers.

It’s the most useful web service I’ve seen in years. ¬†It’s drop-dead easy to use (just forward your email confirmations) and just plain works. ¬†I’m learning a lot about ease-of-use from these guys, and ¬†I can’t imagine traveling without it anymore.

If you haven’t checked it out, go. ¬†Now.

New blog design

March 13, 2008 13 comments
Dewey Sneeze Weed

photo by: Mom4squirrels

Ok, heard you all loud and clear. The old design was too tough to read. Plus I couldn’t post big photos and videos, which I’m obviously pre-disposed to do. ūüôā

So thanks to GreenJimmy, I have a fun new design to play around with. Is this the final design? I doubt it, so you may see it change over the new few days or weeks. Knowing us, it may never be done…

I dig how it’s got old-school darkroom photos clothespinned up top, too. Reminds me of the days of chemicals and film… can’t say I miss them, but they were fun. ūüôā

Like it? Don’t like it? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks Jimmy!

Categories: personal Tags: , , ,

Geek Dinner in Seattle on Jan 15th?

January 3, 2008 14 comments

I’m going to be in Seattle on the 15th and would love to get some great food with some great geeks in the area.

Anyone interested? If so, please comment or email and we’ll coordinate. Appreciate suggestions on places to eat that are tasty and good for geek conversations, too.

You can always see where I’m going at Dopplr, too, if that’s your thing.

Categories: personal

Kindle Review

November 20, 2007 37 comments

Got my Kindle today and have been playing with it for a little while. FYI, I’ve owned a Sony Reader since the day it shipped, too. I’ve always loved to read, and as a result, I’m usually reading multiple books at once. I think I’m currently partway through at least 10 of them, so when I travel, it’s hard to know what kind of mood I’ll be in and I have to pack lots. And they’re heavy. A device like the Kindle or Reader is the holy grail for someone like me, plus I’m a gadget geek, so I’m always an early adopter.

I’ve loved my Sony Reader, the device itself, since I bought it. But the Sony Connect software is so unbelievably bad, I can’t really bring myself to use it. Combined with a terrible selection of books, the Reader has been mostly worthless, despite being a fairly great device. Which is really sad. When I heard the Kindle had the ability to just buy books with a click, no software required, I knew I had to at least give it a try.

Here’s a brief rundown of my thoughts so far:

  • It’s not ugly. I’ve been moaning to everyone who would listen that it’s an ugly device for awhile now, but in person, it’s actually small, light, and understated. It’s certainly not an Apple-designed wonder, but it’s hardly ugly, either. And I find I enjoy reading on the white device (Kindle) more than the black one (Reader), probably due to the contrast or maybe just the white gets “out of the way” more easily, letting me slip into the book.
  • The display is gorgeous, just like the Reader. I have zero problems with it. I’m already used to the lag when you change pages from using the Reader, and I found that after just a few days of using the Reader, I was already hitting the Next Page button early enough so the page turned just when I wanted it to.
  • The scroll thing is very cool and fun to use. I got some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ here at the office as worked it’s magic.
  • The Next/Prev page buttons are much nicer than the ones on my Reader.
  • The EVDO works like magic. Buying books online with a click, no software required, is the killer feature here, and it’s perfect.
  • It comes pre-associated to your Amazon account, so there’s no configuration. Just pick it up, turn it on, and start browsing & buying. *Very* cool.
  • The book selection sucks. There are big gaps, even for well-known bestselling books. Having worked in the book industry before, I put most of this blame in publisher’s laps. They’re just a nightmare to deal with, and paranoid about their content. Apparently they don’t want my money or yours, and even Amazon doesn’t have the weight to make them see reason. Shades of the music, TV, and movie industries, anyone? This must be incredibly frustrating to Jeff and everyone else at Amazon.
  • The web browser worked surprisingly well in the few minutes I used it. But at, I was getting some strange results. Using my Mac’s browser, I searched for a product and quickly found it. But on the Kindle, it failed to turn up the same results, even when I searched for very specific words in the title and description. I was hoping to buy it from my Kindle, but alas, I had to do it the old fashioned way.

More about the book selection… Wanting to have a reference library on my Kindle, I started looking for some of my favorites I refer to often. I searched for Good to Great, my all time favorite business book, first and instead managed to find a weighty tome of eight papal social encyclicals that I could buy for the low low price of $100.80. Built to Last isn’t there either. Pour Your Heart Into It? Nope. Innovator’s Dilemma? Nope. They did have The Wisdom of Crowds and The Culture Code, both of which I bought.

On to a personal favorite category of mine, historical fiction, I knew they’d have James Clavell’s Shogun – but it wasn’t to be. Nor most of Colleen McCullough’s awesome Masters of Rome series, though luckily The October Horse is available (and now on my Kindle). Fine, how about history – Guns, Germs & Steel. Bzzt, no joy. How about the best book ever written on health & nutrition – The China Study? Nope, none of that either. (They did have another excellent book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma). Luckily they did have my favorite fantasy author of all time, George R.R. Martin, and his Song of Ice and Fire books.

There were some strange ones, too. For example, they do have The Daring Book for Girls – but not The Dangerous Book for Boys. And you would be surprised at how many of my search terms turned up weighty, expensive scholarly works rather than the books and novels I was looking for.

Bottom line: I love the device, I love the Kindle Store interface, I just wish the selection was better. I believe it’ll be a permanent resident in my laptop bag, going everywhere I go, but it looks like I’ll still be forced to lug around some dead trees. ūüė¶

UPDATE: Spent quite a bit more time with it last night doing what it’s really supposed to be used for – reading – instead of playing with all the whiz-bang features. I curled up on the couch with Jedi and the Kindle and got lost in The October Horse. And I’ve gotta tell you – it’s a much better device than the Sony Reader in lots of subtle ways:

  • The Next Page buttons are in *much* better places and are much easier to use than the Reader. I tend to curl up on my side to read a lot, switching sides every 15-30 minutes, and the Kindle is easy and natural to hold in such a way that turning to the next page is very easy.
  • I was right about the white color – it makes it easier to sink into reading as well as read the text. The device does almost get out of the way better than the Reader because it’s white.
  • The flicker when you turn pages is still mildly annoying, just like it is on the Reader, and distracts you from completely sinking into the book… at first. Just like the Reader, though, a couple of pages in, your brain has magically figured out the right timing to turn the pages at precisely the right time so the flicker happens as your eyes are traveling from the bottom-right to the top-left of the page. Then the flicker feels no more jarring than turning a page on a dead tree.
  • The cover sucks for reading. Seems like it’s probably great for when I throw it in my laptop bag, but the Sony Reader’s cover is a much better fit, less bulky, etc. I guess the Kindle’s cover needs to be sorta bulky so it can prop the book up for optimal EVDO range, but it still sucks. Take it off to read – it just gets in the way.
  • The text, just like the Reader, is just as easy to read as any book. I have the font on the smallest setting, to minimize page turns, and it’s beautiful and legible. That part of the experience is literally almost indistinguishable from reading a book.

More as I get it… ūüôā

Categories: amazon, personal
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