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Archive for August, 2018

I don’t think Samsung is reading this blog ;-) But they did manage to send out another “security patch” to bring my Galaxy S7 (running Android 8.0) up to the level of August 1, 2018. Two updates in a single month – I hope they don’t wait 6 months to bring us the next one!

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The BMW R1100S riders on the ADV Rider forum continue to post pictures of their (favourite) bike. Like UK user ‘Bryn’ who found an R1100S with an unusual but very BMW-inspired paint job:

There’s another view of this bike over the ADV Forum – just click this one to go there.

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It’s a coincidence, of course: just days after I publish my story about the Panasonic cameras, the company announces a new version of their Lumix LX100. The “LX100 II”, as it is called, certainly comes with fine credentials and a promising lens: a 24-75mm equivalent F1.7-2.8 lens. DPReview already has a “first impressions review” about this new model.

The biggest mirrorless announcement came from Nikon, of course, and I’m certain the brand-new Z6 and Z7 camera’s will be great. But speaking for myself: those are not the camera’s I was (am) looking for. They’re way too expensive for me, to start with. The lens line-up is fine for pro photographers to start with, but not for me. Besides, those lenses are still rather bulky – as they have to be, considering the size of the full-frame sensor.

The Nikon announcement does make it clear that “mirrorless” is most likely the way of the future. Not that I needed any confirmation, but it seems to prove that I made the right choice when switching to MFT.

Did you also note that the DPReview TV video titled “Nikon Z7 hands-on first impressions” was recorded on a Panasonic GH5 ? That’s not a coincidence!

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According to DPReview, the Micro Four Thirds format was introduced 10 years ago. DPReview calls it the start of a revolution, because it enabled Panasonic and Olympus to offer serious, even professional, system cameras without a mirror-based viewfinder, thus entering a market previously reserved for Nikon and Canon.

In 2008 I was already committed to the Nikon SLR format. I had been using an F50 film camera for more than a decade, and I had just replaced my D70 of 2006 with a second-hand D80. So I did not really care about the MFT announcement, what I wanted was an affordable full-frame Nikon DSLR (still waiting, by the way).

When my Fujifilm X20 started to show its age a year ago, I started looking around for a possible replacement. I went looking for an affordable small camera with a decent viewfinder, a usable zoom lens, a hot shoe and serious controls. After a lot of searching an pondering I decided that the Panasonic DMC-LX100 could be what I was looking for. But it was still a bit too expensive for me at that time: I looking for a second all-in-one camera, not for a replacement of the Nikon D5600 I considered to be my main workhorse ;-) Some of the MFT cameras that were presented to the public the past 10 years did catch my attention, but the really interesting ones are system cameras, and they would have “forced” me to build up a second collection of lenses – and I did not want to do that, for financial reasons as well as lack of space in my photo cabinet.

At the beginning of this year, just by accident, I found out that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 with its standard 12-32 zoom was offered for (substantially) less money than the LX100.  So I bought the GX80… and that was the start of an unexpected experience.

You see, the GX80 showed me that the MFT platform has matured so much that the image quality rivals that of APS-C, at least for my purposes. No, the viewfinder is not as large as the viewfinder of a Nikon DSLR like the D7500, but it will do for me. In fact, I prefer it because the electronic display is capable of displaying the complete menu system of the camera, meaning that I don’t have to get my reading glasses to change a setting during a shoot! At the same time, the GX80 and its lenses are so much smaller and lighter than the corresponding Nikon material – I admit to having bought a cheap 45-150mm telezoom for the GX80, contrary to my plans for this camera . And the results, in terms of image quality, are good enough for me even now (and I know I still have to learn more about them in order to use their full capabilities).

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80
with the excellent 12-60mm zoom lens

To cut a long story short: I am replacing my Nikon material with Panasonic cameras and lenses. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80 body weighs a bit more than the D5600, but the lenses are much smaller and lighter – and the whole system is weatherproof as well. The ergonomics of the camera are great as well: you need the manual to come to grips with the many capabilities and options of the camera, not with its use. I have added the Panasonic G Vario 12-60 lens to my collection. That means I now have a camera and lens that can do almost everything I want to do while on holiday without having to change lenses, while weighing less than 800g.

I know that an expert or professional full-frame DSLR with premium lenses will deliver better images, even if it’s just me using it. But these products are way too expensive for me, and I don’t want to haul them around a whole day while I’m supposed to enjoy my surroundings – so I have put the dream of owning those to rest.

Having a smaller range-finder-like camera like the GX80 or the GX9, that can use the same lens collection, is another plus. In fact, in combination with the standard 12-32mm lens these cameras are not that much bigger than the Fuji X20, just heavier – they still fit in the supple Nikon camera case I bought a long, long time ago for an L35AW. I don’t see Nikon (or Canon) offer me the same capabilities in the same small package. Unless Nikon or Canon are ready to embrace the MFT platform as well – that would be interesting, don’t you think?

For another view on the MFT platform and its place in recent camera history, check out the DPReview video:

 

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Perhaps there is not enough fiction in it… Just read it, I insist, even if you’re not an SF fan: “Noon in the antilibrary“.

Thank you, MIT Technology Review!

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A week ago, Dave Winer complained about the loss of “essential” (or important) web pages on the Web:

Earlier this year we lost the handle on Radio UserLand weblogs because the new owner of weblogs.com was unwilling to maintain a DNS entry pointing to them. That and Google’s marking HTTP sites as not secure have been huge blows to the web as an archival medium.

I too am a big fan of keeping stuff of all kinds (let’s call it “archiving”, shall we?). I also would like to keep web pages around indefinitely. I hate it when I find a reference on my blog responding with a 404 error, since I pride myself to write only (OK, mostly) about serious subjects. But the Web by itself is too human and too complex, I fear, to avoid deletion of pages and sites.

What I have learned the hard way, after losing part of my first website in the mid-1990’s, is that you have to your own “curator”. If you want to “keep” certain information from the Web, just keep a copy of it on a location that you control. By the way, “information” does not necessarily equal “web page”: text, images, movies, sound, etc. can be stored separately from a “web page”.

When I find “linkrot” on my blog, I do try to check the existence of the corresponding page on the Internet Archive, also known as the “Wayback Machine”. There’s an extensive archive over there, but no one should expect it to be complete. But it remains useful, so let me propose a neat little software project: a browser extension that automatically goes looking into the Wayback Machine when it encounters a “Page not found” error?

Google’s first home page as seen in the Wayback Machine

Clearly there will never be a complete copy of the Web as a whole. It would be nice if someone were to take on the role of “chief web archivist” and build a real archive of essential and relevant sites and pages. But shouldn’t that include the server-side resources as well as the resulting pages? I mean: what use is it to have the first version of Google’s search page if you don’t have the underlying search engine and its data as well?

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August 17th is #Deactiday on Twitter:

Also interesting (not just for today, by the way) is the information in this Twitter thread by Shannon Coulter. I do hope someone collected all that info and turned into a document or page on a platform other than Twitter and Facebook – a blog, for example, would be nice ;-)

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I was under the impression that I had already blogged about Theo Jansen’s ‘Strandbeesten’, but a search did not turn up any posts on this blog. To redress that inadvertence, here’s a link to the official website of these artificial beasts. Theo has been working on these animals since almost thirty years, and there are already quite a few videos and photos to be found on the internet. It’s good to see that people – be they artists or engineers or whatever – still think about the absolute simplest way of getting things to work, especially in these times of electronic devices.

Thanks for reminding me, BoingBoing!

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A year ago, I was hoping that Samsung would send out Android security updates on a regular basis. But that did not happen, at least not in my understanding of the word “regular“. But just as I was about to complain about the fact that my Galaxy 7 was still on the April 1, 2018 patch level, Samsung released a new system update:

Unfortunately, the update failed on my phone on the first try! It took a while for the machine to rediscover the update; luckily, the second attempt was successful. Oh well, that’s software for you.

No word on the possibility of an upgrade to Android 9, of course – but I’m not holding my breath until that happens! One comment on the Sammobile website says it all: Samsung sucks when it comes to Android upgrades, especially compared to Apple.

Samsung flagships won’t see this update until mid 2019 like they always do, and that is just an approximate, and this most likely is going to be the last major software update for the Note 8, yes, a device they are still selling for $800+ on their website, when the iPhone 5S that came out in 2013 is getting iOS 12…

Will my next smartphone be a Google Pixel or an iPhone? Who knows…

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Remember The Past

Here’s an important message form Seamus Bellamy, as written in “Update: Faces of Auschwitz website is now live” on the BoingBoing website:

Read the stories of KL Auschwitz’s prisoners. Share them with your friends and family, if it feels right to do so.

Above all, remember the dead as they give warning to the living.

Wouldn’t it be great if this kind of message was no longer needed? Indeed. But as Mr. Bellamy writes:

At a time when the politics of hate have once again found sway on the world stage and concentration camps have sprung into being at an alarming speed, we need to talk about how hate, bigotry and fear of the other can lead to tragedy on an unimaginable scale. It’s my opinion that one of the best ways to do this is to cite examples from the past.

So head over to the Faces of Auschwitz website. The stories are short and instructive about the Nazi procedures in general, and not just the individuals portrayed. One of them is Seweryna Szmaglewska, who managed to survive the camps, wrote a book about it, and served as a witness at the International Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1946.

(c) Kazerne Dossin. Contact Kazerne Dossin Documentation Centre: archives@kazernedossin.eu

Not far from where I live are two important museums relating to the same subject: Fort Breendonk and Kazerne Dossin. That last museum has an extensive archive about (Belgian) people deported to the Nazi camps, and part of that archive is also available online. Thousands of pictures and documents were digitized into a collection called “Give Them a Face” – that is no coincidence, I’m sure. Perhaps ‘Faces of Auschwitz‘ and ‘Kazerne Dossin‘ can collaborate in the much needed research of the history of WW2 ?

In the words of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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Our solar panels don’t measure the temperature, but they tell me that July certainly was a sunny month. They produced a bit more than 344 KWh of electricity, and that is the second best number in the history of our installation. Only in 2010 did we produce more than that, but 2010 was a very sunny year overall at this location.

Concerning the temperatures here in Belgium: the Royal Meteorological Institute calls the temperatures (and the number of hours of sunshine) for July “very exceptional” (sorry, the page with those data is not available in English). We’re beginning to get used to those 30+ degrees (Celcius) – that’s going to be a problem when things return to normal!

If you care about the impact of the ambient temperature on the efficiency of photovoltaic systems, have a look at this short article: “How Does Heat Affect Solar Panel Efficiencies?” It’s probably not a coincidence that that our panels did indeed better today (August 5) than two days ago: there was more wind today (good for ventilating and cooling our panels) and it was a few degrees less warm. I do not know the exact specs of our panels (the official documentation at Solyndra’s website is of course no longer available), but the SolarDesignTool website suggests a temperature coefficient of about 0.38%. That means that three degrees less increase the efficiency of the panels by about 1%, and that seems to correspond with our numbers for August 3 and 5 – at least if you take into account that I did not measure the exact temperature on our roof, but used guesstimation as my tool ;-)

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The SD Times website writes up the state of affairs on Free and/or Open Source Software: Open source at 20: The ubiquity of shared code. Even after 20 (or more) years, the situation isn’t always clear, certainly not for new developers. So this article is a good start if you’re new to software development.

In the year 2000 I compiled on the Free Software page in this site. I’m pleased to see that the texts and sites on the page are still relevant. Only two sites disappeared (linuxppc.org and opensourceit.com); the rest is still thriving and relevant! Well, except for the link to Reddit – still a remarkable site, but no longer just for FOSS fans.

A landmark paper about Free and Open Source Software

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