New Toy! Canon EOS-M

Canon EOS-M

Just got the Canon EOS-M in last night. I haven’t had time to really test the sucker out yet, but here is what I’m expecting from my research and why I chose this one.

Let’s start with the why. I have sorely missed having a DSLR around all the time. I love taking pictures, and my droid, iPad, and Go Pro HD Hero simply do not compare. But I also want something I can bring around when I go biking (especially if I ever get around to the Blue Ridge Parkway, that one is definitely still on my bucket list). So I’m obviously looking for something on the small and light scale.

Enter, the Canon EOS-M. The best way I can describe it, based on research more than use at this point, is that this is Canon’s attempt to cram the power, quality, and flexibility of a full DSLR into the body of a family vacation digital. And it seems like it worked about as well as can be expected (admittedly, I still have to put this thing through a lot more before I can say that conclusively).

I can already tell that for biking, this is definitely going to suit my needs. It is very small, the entire camera just fits in the palm of my hand. I use a Canon Vixia for work, which is a small digital video camera, and this is just a bit smaller. It’s heavier, but not as a heavy as a traditional DSLR. I got it with the pancake lens to keep it as small as possible. I don’t really need any zooming for most of what I’ll shoot on my bike; landscapes, pictures of the bike, me with the bike, roads, etc. I’ve brought a DSLR around with me while biking before and it is a pain in the ass, hopefully the EOS-M will change that.

As for the downsides, I noticed that the clips that hold the strap on to the camera make a good amount of noise. When filming, the strap will simply have to come off. The camera doesn’t have the best of grips, so that means using a tripod or monopod (or in my case the center of my tripod which works freaking awesomely and extends your reach by about one foot, great in crowds and at media gaggles, also easier to hold steady than just the camera itself). Other downsides that various people have noted in reviews: 1) No view finder, not a big deal for me since I’m used to a video camera that has no view finder, but might be tough on manual focusing when in the sun. 2) No flash, also not a big deal, but it has a hot shoe.

Next up I’ll need to get a new SD card, the ones I use in my Go Pro aren’t good enough to handle the EOS-M video so they overheat and stop recording quickly. I also want the 18-55mm lens for non-biking activities. The power chord is a must (kind of disappointed it didn’t come in the package in the first place). And a light would come in handy but isn’t totally necessary at the moment. After all that stuff, maybe I’ll work my way into a lens adapter and just go nuts.

Here’s a handful of pics I took last night in the apartment:

Bing Criticizes Google App Store It Participates In

I caught a Bing advertisement criticizing the Google App store in an attempt to convince Google users to use Bing for online searching. The argument is that Google shares your info with the app makers, and that makes them terrible, so all their products must suck. To start with, the app store has absolutely nothing to do with searching, which makes the criticism come across as desperate and weak.

But something else about this made me look twice at this ad. I was pretty sure I had seen plenty of Microsoft apps in Google’s app store in the past. So I ran a quick search. It was less-than-shocking to discover a Bing app, created by Microsoft themselves.

App store search

If this app store is so terrible, Microsoft should do the noble thing and pull all their apps from it. If they will not abandon Google, how can they expect others to do that?

The “Bing It On” Scam

Bing, ever struggling to peel users away from Google, has come out recently with their version of a blind taste test. The “Bing It On” challenge involves doing a handfull of searches, with the results from both Google and Bing displayed side-by-side. . Of course, those results are not labeled (hence the blind taste test), and according to Bing a majority choose their results.

That sounds no different from putting a glass of Pepsi and a glass of Coke infront of someone, but there is one catch. In this version, the Coke (Google) is replaced with something that is similar but not quite the same. In order to keep you from immediately recognizing which results are from Google, they had to remove a whole lot of stuff. Some of this stuff is very useful.

The picture below shows the Bing It On results from a search for “Windermere Country Club”
Bing It On Scam

But here are the actual results from a Google search
Google search results

See that stuff on the right? It shows a picture, google map, address, phone number, and hours. You can click one button for directions (obviously through Google maps). You can read reviews, or write a review. That is helpful stuff, hardly inconsequential in deciding which search results are the best. Now, you might say, “Hey, there are scroll bars, maybe that stuff is just over to the right? Nope, as you can see below it is just white space there.
Bing It On Scam 2

This stuff was removed for an obvious reason; it would give away which search result came from Google because of the integration of maps, images, and other Google brand products.

They do have a disclaimer, which reads:

*Based on a comparison of web search results pane only; excludes ads, Bing’s Snapshot and Social Search panes and Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Does exclusion of “Google’s Knowledge Graph” explain the disappearance of information here? Yes. So why does this matter, if they included a disclaimer? This is akin to switching out Coke with a generic substitute during a blind taste test, asking people to judge it against Pepsi, and then bragging about beating Coke.

DIY: Rollout Spice Rack

spice rack

This project was a lot of fun, and pretty easy thanks to this helpful tutorial from ClassyClutter.net

We’ve got a fairly small apartment (such is downtown living!) so I’m always looking for new ways to create space. There is about a five inch gap between the fridge and the wall. That dead space may not look like much, but when you put one of these in there you save tons of space in cabinets.

I adapted the design just a bit, adding some hooks and room at the top for oven mits, which I always seem to be digging around for in our jam-packed drawers

Scientists with wit…

via George Takei's facebook

U-Verse iPad App

This might seem like exaggeration, but the U-Verse app for the iPad (my girlfriend got me an iPad mini for x-mas and it is freakin’ awesome) is one of the best designed apps I’ve ever used on any platform. For those who are unfamiliar with U-Verse, it is an AT&T run cable and internet provider in my new homestate.

The app works by connecting to your cable box via the wireless modem. You setup the box to give permissions, in my case I’m letting any device that is on our wireless have access. This turns the iPad into what is essentially a supersmart remote control, equipped with a user-friendly layout.

On to the screenshots! First off, this is how it looks when you open the app:

As you would expect with any iPad app, the scrolling feature here is smooth as can be. The next tab is the guide:

This guide is awesome and easier to navigate than the one on the television. One of the nice features, and something I’ve long wanted on tv guides, is the ability to look back at what was previously on. In the picture above, anything in white is currently on or will be in the future, the grey is what has already ended.

Below is what it looks like when you select a program:

As you can see, I can choose to record or, in the case of a show that is currently on, I can watch it on TV.

One thing I’m not thrilled with is the layout for recorded programs. There is nothing glaringly wrong with it, but it is not the most intuitive thing in the world. For instance, you’ll notice in the picture below that I clicked on the most recent recording of the Rachel Maddow Show. I’ve got three recordings of that show to choose from. It would have been nice if it highlighted the one I had clicked on rather than making me look through the record dates to pick out the right one. However, while I’m not thrilled with this, I’m still pretty happy with the recorded programs sections.

The only section of the app I’m not happy with is the on demand section. First, it doesn’t actually let you pick on demand shows and watch them on the TV (you have to navigate to on demand through the iPad controller, which you might as well do with the actual controller). I do like that you can watch the on demand programs on your iPad, meaning I could watch a program on my porch. The other thing I find odd about the on demand section is that it has different stuff available. I found a movie I wanted to watch, then was surprised to go to on demand on the television and find that movie unavailable there.

My last complaint with the on demand section is that the layout is kind of hard to navigate and the organization makes little-to-no sense. While everything else about this app is awesome, this area definitely needs some rethinking.

Add up all the pros and cons and this app is one of the most useful out there. I find myself using my iPad more frequently than the controller that came with my cable box. That right there is the selling point. Other cable providers would do well to follow suit.

Me when I find out that awesome book I just finished…

…is actually the first in a series!

I just finished The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card, on to the second in the series, The Call of Earth.

I’ll do an actual review when I’ve finished the series, or at least a good chunk of it. But needless to say, I enjoyed the first one thoroughly. I thought it was some of Card’s most fascinating work.

LifeNews Spreads Lie About Obama Thanksgiving Proclamation

So stupid. It hurts.

For the fourth straight year, the Thanksgiving resolution from President Barack Obama fails to actually thank God — which is the fundamental reason why Thanksgiving is observed.

From the 2012 proclamation:

“This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives.”

From the 2011 proclamation:

“As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives.”

From the 2010 proclamation:

“As we stand at the close of one year and look to the promise of the next, we lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings, for one another, and for our Nation.”

From the 2009 proclamation:

“Today, we recall President George Washington, who proclaimed our first national day of public thanksgiving to be observed “by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God,” and President Abraham Lincoln, who established our annual Thanksgiving Day to help mend a fractured Nation in the midst of civil war.”

One could argue, I suppose, that the 2009 quote is not an explicit thanks to God. I disagree. But even if we are to give LifeNews the benefit of the doubt, they were still wrong on three out of four. When I was a student, if I received a 25% on a test, it came with an F- grade, and a note from the teacher to “See me after class.”

‘rise of the campaign tracker’

Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal recently did a segment on the work I’ve been doing for the last year and a half:

I know they say this every four years, but this time, it might actually be true. That this presidential election is different. That this is the one that’s gonna change everything.

Although, it’s entirely possible that the conventional wisdom about why it’s different is wrong. That it’s actually different in part because of this one guy and people like him. His name is Will Urquhart.

“I came here because part of my job is to film — if possible — everything that Mitt Romney does,” says Urquhart. “Every handshake, every word that comes out of his mouth when he’s in Iowa — him and his surrogates.”

The entire thing is worth reading. I also wrote up a post for them about a day in the life of a campaign tracker, in which I describe the job and some of my more memorable moments.

Updated Top 10 Droid Apps

I recently had to do a factory reset on my Samsung Charge to fix a couple issues that most likely arose as a result of some third party app. If you don’t already know, a factory reset means erasing your phone, essentially returning it to the state it was in when first purchased.

A factory reset means you have to do everything over again, but is also means you get to do everything over again! This time around, I get to setup the phone after a year of experience, and with a host of apps that either were not known to me at the time or were yet to be available. So, now that I have had some time with my new, old phone, I thought an updated review would be in order.

I am going to start by updating my Top 10 Droid Apps list. The last time I did one of these was before I got my Charge, so the list is going to be very different.

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