A Choice Has Been Made: Life-proof Point-and-Shoot Digital Cameras

My family’s recent move to Colorado brought with it the ability to spend a good deal of time in the mountains this summer.  While I greatly enjoy taking my DSLR where the oxygen is thin, I’d love the ability to rough it while not having to worry about damaging my equipment and minimizing my “camera packing space”; especially when it comes to the kinds of trips I’d like to take with my kids, like hiking.

20130407-JVM-9019

Thus enters life-proof point-and-shoot digital cameras, which are built and rated to be drop, dust, water, and freeze proof.  These cameras introduce a level of ruggedness that allows for some great photo opportunities.

AW110

Several years ago I had looked into life-proof point-and-shoot cameras not long after Olympus brought the concept to the market.  Unfortunately the picture quality of these cameras was horrid compared to their non-ruggedized cousins, so I held off to allow the technology to mature.  After reviewing the current offerings, it appears that the picture quality has greatly improved.  With the improved quality, these newer life-proof cameras include a handful of compelling features:

  • GPS
  • Altimeter
  • Built-in World Maps
  • Wi-Fi
  • NFC Transfer
  • 1080p Video Recording With Stereo Sound
  • Improved Low-Light Handling (ISO > 1600)

Additional factor (what my wife and I used to decide which one to purchase):

  • Summarizing reviews on Amazon.com, Newegg.com and BHPhotoVideo.com.
  • Testing the time it takes from power-on before a picture can be taken, and the delay between taking individual pictures.
  • Reviewing test videos and test images online (e.g., Youtube.com, and DPReview.com).
  • Mulling over it for several days, and making several trips to Best Buy to try each of them out.

The top contenders included:

When it all came down to it, we decided that the AW110 fit the feature-set that we expected.  The main factors that pushed it beyond the Olympus TG-2 was the improved picture quality, the slightly longer zoom, the built-in Wi-Fi support, and the overall higher user reviews online; even though the number of user reviews are relatively low because of how recent the AW110 was released).

So now I wait in anticipation for the camera to arrive, and once it does I will definitely put it through it’s paces and I will share the results.

Don’t Allow CISPA to Take Away Your Digital Privacy Rights

The past couple weeks have been quite volatile for America, between the heated gun control bill, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.  Unfortunately, during all the goings-on, the House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

This bill, as far as I understand it, would:

  • Create a new precedent for companies to monitor users actions and to share your personal, and potentially sensitive, information with the government without the need of a warrant.
  • The bill basically overrides any existing privacy and device protection laws.
  • The information collected under this bill would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act or any other existing states disclosure laws.  This throws any transparency, or public oversight, about what information is being collected, and how it’s used, out the window.
  • It gives legal immunity to companies that participate in sharing this information with the government, even if if they violate an individuals’ privacy.
  • While there are limitations as to how the government can use the information, there are no restrictions as to what kind of information can be shared with the government.

Here is EFF’s summary of CISPA:

CISPA stands for The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a network and Internet security bill written by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) (H.R. 624). The bill purports to allow companies and the federal government to share information to prevent or defend against network and other Internet attacks. However, the bill grants broad new powers, allowing companies to identify and obtain “threat information” by looking at your private information. It is written so broadly that it allows companies to hand over large swaths of personal information to the government with no judicial oversight—effectively creating a “cybersecurity” loophole in all existing privacy laws.

Don’t get me wrong.  I completely understand that the United States is in a complicated position when it comes to cyber security, especially in the wake of several recent international cyber-attacks.  However, my stance is that anyone who believes that taking away our right to privacy in the form of warrant-less invasions, whether it be physical or digital, is wrong.  I reject that my civil liberties should be given up under the promise of increased network security.  Many experts in the field of information systems security and computer science agree.  Such as Bruce Schneier, who is regarded as one of the worlds foremost experts on cryptography and information system security.  In a recent open letter to the U.S. Congress, Bruce and many other industry experts referred to the purported increase in security as “a false trade-off“.  With that being said, I’m not pretending to believe that I have all the answers to how we should improve our cyber-security, but I strongly believe that CISPA isn’t the answer.

And no, I’m not just a 14-year old twitterer living in a basement as Rep. Mike Rogers would suggest (Youtube video of the quote).  Well, technically I am living in a basement for the time being, but that’s because I wanted to move back home to Colorado and haven’t sold my house in Texas yet.  But that’s besides the point.  Whether I am or not, doesn’t dismiss the fact that Rep. Mike Rogers labelled any opponent to this bill as either immature or uninformed.  Is he then also suggesting that the previously mentioned industry experts are either immature or uninformed?

Fortunately it was recently published by the White House that President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it hits his desk, but in my honest opinion we shouldn’t take the chance!  Please join me and many others in opposing this bill by contacting your states’ senators.  Here are a few places where you can get started:

  • EFF – Send pre-generated tweets to Senators’ twitter accounts.
  • EFF - Send an email to your Senators by zip code, and register for additional information from EFF’s activism team.
  • Senate.gov – Look-up your Senators contact information (mailing address, website, phone number, email, and or twitter account) and contact them directly.  Personally, I would think this would make more of an impact because it would be more than just another “canned” complaint.
  • Fight For the Future – Join the online protest/petition.

An open and free internet needs more privacy, not less!  As The Gaurdian’s well titled commentary stated:  Oppose CISPA, if you value any privacy in our digital world!

Note:  The summaries in this post about what CISPA will do is based on what information I’ve read from what I consider to be trustworthy online sources, however I’m no lawyer and everything on the internet must be true, so please take the time to inform yourself as much as possible on this subject.  Below you can find several sources about the potential impact of this bill:

Test of the WordPress.com Posting Interface

This is a test of the standard WordPress.com posting interface.  If this were a real post, additional random and possibly readable information may be included.  Now to return to your regularly scheduled WordPress.

That’s right.  I’ve moved my blog to WordPress.com, as I’ve grown tired of maintaining the security of my website.  Maintaining my site’s security has grown increasingly difficult as of late, which did result in a couple of malicious intrusions, and I feel like I’m at a point where I have better things to do.  The end result of all the security maintenance is exactly what you’ve seen: No new posts, because all I’m doing is maintaining it’s current state.

To that end, I’m hoping that I may be able to get back to the main reason I setup this page in the first place; to share my experiences in technology, photography, and life.  Mostly as an outlet to share the things that I find interesting.  Yes, I have a lot of content to fix due to the of differences in configuration and available plug-ins, between my site and WordPress.com, but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.

So here’s to another attempt at getting back to this blog…

Force ‘screen’ to Detach

For the first time I ran into a situation where screen reported that it was already attached to an existing session despite the fact that no one was connected to a session anymore (the sessions/systems that were connected had been rebooted):

$> screen -ls
There is a screen on:
        10363.pts-0.hobbiton    (05/20/2012 07:22:39 PM)        (Attached)
1 Socket in /var/run/screen/S-jlm.

The man pages state that the ‘-D’ option offers a means to force an existing attachment to detach, so the following command will allow you to detach and re-attach to the afflicted session:

$> screen -D -r 10363.pts-0.hobbiton

Happy New Year, 2012 Here We Come!

Happy New Years 2012 -- Shamelessly re-shared from Scott Kelby's Google+ Post

The best word that I can think of in regards to this year, is interesting.  We’ve had some really huge ups and downs, so we’re praying and crossing our fingers that 2012 won’t be so… interesting.

As paraphrased from one of Lena’s recent facebook posts:

Ich habe in diesem Jahr: gelacht, geweint, gelebt, vieles akzeptiert, vieles verziehen, selbst Fehler gemacht, verlorene Freunde, angefreundet.  Aber all dass, ist Teil des Menschens der ich heute bin!!!!!

Rough translation (via Google Translate):  I have this year: laughed, cryed, lived, accepted much, forgiven much, owned mistakes, lost friends, made ​​friends.  But all that is part of the person I am today!!!!!

Either way, I wish everyone a Happy New Years and only the best for the up coming year. And most of all, BE SAFE!

P.S.  What’s the best way to start out the first hour of the year?  The Doctor Who Christmas Special that I hadn’t had a chance to watch yet!

Cheers,

Jason Mock

Scott Kelby’s Post can be found here, since I don’t feel like trying to fix the caption.

Choosing (And Finding) A Tablet Computer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed the increased popularity of tablet devices and e-readers. From the Kindle to the iPad, the tablet is slowly making it’s mark as a very popular computing device. I always thought that the form-factor of a tablet would be nice, as input and storage accessories were available, and as long as the operating system and user experience can provide the capabilities features that users expect.

The accessories concern mainly comes from the fact that I’m a very fast typist, and I have doubts as to whether I’ll ever be able to type as quickly without a physical keyboard.  Additionally most users have grown accustomed to having access to additional storage, especially in the form of flash based media.

In regards to the operating system, and the user experience, we’ve all seen that customers are willing to try something different.  Both iOS on Apple devices, and Android have taken centre stage leaving the likes of Palm, and Microsoft in the dust. At the same time, once you start increasing your screen real-estate to the same as a netbook, I think your going to find users yearning basic for features found in full-featured operating systems like Windows and Mac OSX.  I don’t think users will be completely satisfied with tablet devices that use the same exact interface as found on cell phones and multimedia players.

So, with the recent release of the Android Honeycomb devices, and my increase interest after being exposed to a Kindle that I bought Lena for Christmas, I’ve decided to jump in the mix by purchasing an Android 3.x tablet.  While the iPad 2 is a perfectly capable device, I think that as a power-user I would be increasingly annoyed by the overly simplified set of features provided by iOS 4.x.  Just the fact that the device has to be tethered against a computer with iTunes is enough to turn me away.

So after going through a piles of reviews, and comparing specifications, I’ve decided to go for the Asus EEE Pad Transformer.  The combination of the dockable keyboard, turning the tablet into a netbook like form-factor, is great in my opinion.  That coupled with the acclaimed IPS display, and one of the lowest price points for a device of it’s class, the Transformer quickly jumped to the top of my list.

Unfortunately, due to it’s unprecedented popularity, the Asus EEE Pad Transformer has experience similar availability issues as the iPad 2.  So it might be some time before I have a chance to actually get my hands on one.  Either way, I plan on sharing my experiences with the tablet and with Android Honeycomb once I finally have the chance.

The House Dog One, Two Shuffle

Back in September we rescued a dog named Petey from Weatherford, TX.  When we first picked up Petey, we thought that he’d be a perfect fit because he was excellent with the kids, fairly calm, and took direction very well.  Unfortunately, over time we started to notice a couple of problems.  When I’d try to give Petey direction, or give him a treat, he would piddle.  Additionally, he always freaked out whenever we left him home alone.

Petey

At first, he quickly figured out how to pop his cage open, so because we didn’t quite trust him yet we started leaving him outside.  When he was outside, he slowly damaged the back door and he’d dig at every gate around the back yard.  All of this seemed fairly manageable, and also seemed to improve over time until our trip to Colorado for Christmas.

A couple days after arriving, we decided to go to a C.C. Tigers Hockey game.  Because we were worried about how he’d respond, and because it was a little cold outside, we left him in my parents garage.  When we got home, we found the garage trashed.  Initially we said that was enough, but through contacting rescuers we started to get an idea of what might be going on.

From the rescuers perspective, the piddling was due to an alpha-male submission response.  Most rescuers had seen this, but it usually only occurred in situations where the dog had been abused.  One described this as an alternative to exposing their tummy for scratching.  Additionally they all described the issues with being alone as a form of separation anxiety disorder.  One rescuer said that they saw this in rescued dogs quite regularly, but some dogs get over it better than others.

At this point, we took the suggestions from the rescuers and immediately implemented them to see what kind of effect they’d have.  With the piddling, it seemed that if I rough housed with the dog then he seemed to understand that I’m not going to abuse him.  This worked most of the time, with the occasional – yet manageable – accident.  However, the separation anxiety never really improved.

Over the past could of weeks, we finally made the incredibly difficult decision that we just weren’t the right kind of family for Petey.  With that we took Petey back to the original rescuer back in Weatherford to ensure he was in a safe place.

Returning Petey was incredibly traumatic for us.  In fact it seemed as thought Lena and I had a harder time with returning him than the kids did.  At that point I’d imagined that we wouldn’t last too long without a dog.

Today proved my instincts correct.  We went by the Greenville Animal Shelter during my lunch and absolutely fell in love with a corgi they had.  Despite being worried about the corgi only being three months old, I also thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to instill the behaviors that we’d like to see out of the dog.

So, we went ahead and adopted him.  This evening we agreed on the name Spots.  So with that I present to everyone Spots:

A call to action:

If you know of an animal that is being abused, please report it to your local ASPCA as soon as possible.  They don’t deserve it, and it needs to be stopped!