April Fool’s Day, Craigslist Missing Son Ad, Best Thing Anyone’s Said To Me All Year, High Dynamic Range (HDR), eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver

April Fool’s Day

Yea, it’s always good to take a break on April 1st if you’re blogging or writing any sort of article on the Internet; just to make sure someone doesn’t take what you say as an April Fool’s Day joke. Believe me, heh heh.

On a webboard I started up and ran for many years (and no longer do) we used to have a heck of a lot of fun on April Fool’s Day. We discovered that the ‘bad word’ filter could also be used to substitute pretty much any word or phrase for any other word or phrase. You can just imagine the chaos that follows something like that, especially with a moderately high-traffic discussion system.

The funniest people were always those who cried that their free speech was being violated, their messages were being edited because someone had something against them, or those who were just too damn ‘dumb’ to realize what day it was (and there were many, many many many).

I always advocated (tongue-in-cheek of course) kicking the latter people off. Survival of the fittest sort of thing. I’ve always said that you should never overestimate people nor underestimate them – especially their potential for mind-blowing ditsyness.

We’d also change the graphics, or have the same graphics but with little flashes of amusing things going on in those graphics – just so you saw it out of the corner of your eye. Sometimes change people’s handles, etc. What a great time.

Craigslist Missing Son Ad

Did you see the local Craigslist entry where the mother posted a want ad looking for her missing son? It’s was an amusingly-worded, cutesy-yet-underlying-seriously-toned message. Well, amazingly it worked. Someone spotted the kid and they found him, except he apparently stole something from his mom and he got popped for that.

Some thought the whole ad things was funny, some not so much. As my wifey said – “She’s going to be sorry if they find him dead somewhere.” Lots of discussion on the Craigslist site about it.

A couple only-slightly-related thoughts on the above.

Firstly, likely this entry will be gone soon. Some sites have permalinks but most don’t so. So it’s something to consider whether you are blogging or just referencing something on a website or discussion area, or even mail. Especially when the link is from a news site, classifieds site, or what-have-you. Give it a good description in case the link is gone next year, next month, next week, or tomorrow.

Of course you could just copy the info or text, but most sites have some sort of copyright or implied copyright (unless it has a specific copyright that allows sharing the data from the site with an attribution, like Wikipedia does). So be careful of that of course.

Secondly; Craigslist is a good example of a very simple website design succeeding. And you can’t get much simpler then the format of Craigslist.

I always tell my customers – I can build you a graphics-heavy monstrously eye-catching site with all the bells and whistles and video and music and sound and animation; but if it has no substance, or nothing anyone is interested in; then it will die.

Here’s a good example of the most basic website; visually and bells-and-whistles-wise, there can be. And it is successful. Of course,

I certainly wouldn’t advocate you setting up a website quite as plain but it is a good example.

Best Thing Anyone’s Said To Me All Year

If you need a little mood enhancement and motivation in your day check out Mary’s Motivational Blog.

One of my good friends lives in Canada. We daily discuss this or that – computers, cameras, video, websites, politics, etc. Great guy, one of those smart, artistic dudes that the world needs lots more of.

I mentioned that I am getting into experimenting with High Dynamic Range photos. It’s an incredible new technique in photography (and some cameras are coming out with it built-in). More about this later…

Part of a day went by and then I received a short message from my Canadian bud. A message that not only made my day but also my whole year. Best thing anyone’s said to me this year, I’d say (and I hope he doesn’t mind me relaying it here):

"I hate you 
You force me to try and think - and learn new stuff."

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

Now, about HDR itself…

Say you are taking a picture with your camera, doesn’t matter whether it is a film or digital. Say the scene is an outdoor scene at dusk. You’re taking a shot of a an open field, facing away from the sun with a gaping cave mouth off to one side. How do you adjust your exposure or how does your camera’s automatic settings interpret the scene?

Some part of the scene is going to be too dark and if you spot-adjust for the dark parts the rest will be over-exposed.

With High Dynamic Range photos you take a number of pictures of the same scene, adjusting your exposure at each one; from under-exposed to over-exposed. The software (in my case the excellent Qtpfsgui, there are also other programs like Photomax Free and Photomax Pro and the newer Adobe Photoshops, which have a simplistic version in them) takes those pictures and adds them all together so that hopefully (and it does require manual tweaking) everything can be seen at a good exposure. I’m simplifying it here for those who aren’t into photography.

So EVERYTHING can be seen; the field, the inside of the cave, the hill the cave is on, etc.

But probably the best way to see its effects is to go to this Flickr group.

Pretty amazing stuff. Some are overdone in my opinion and look more like bad special effects.

But most are very good to mind-blowing. They look almost like computer-rendered, painted, or computer-painted scenes. There are no dark underexposed areas – you can see every nook, cranny, and normally shadowed spot in the photo.

Some the photographer’s have used the HDR and tonal software to go beyond the realistic for various special effects.

Here’s my first efforts.

Interesting, but I have a long way to go of course. I think one of the major things is; like most photography, finding a suitable scene or subject. These were quick shots without much in the way of contrasting areas.

eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver

I rarely buy casual stuff for myself that doesn’t directly involve my computer business or something necessary in general, at least for myself.

But, as you might know from my previous entries, I’ve enjoyed using my GPS receiver (and even made a few bucks from using it once). But it is an el cheapo one – a Magellan eXplorist 100. Basic but with some good features. The ones it was lacking though were hard to live without once I got into using it more and more.

Like the lack of a computer interface (you can only transfer so many latitudes and longitudes to and from the GPS and computer by hand before it gets real old-hat). A company in another country is selling an interface for it but I felt this was a bit iffy. There seemed to be some dispute among those who bought them as to the use of it, and some people didn’t have any luck getting the interface to work in the first place. Plus, you had to take the batteries out to use the interface, necessitating using an external power source. Awkward.

Also, the GPS didn’t have any maps nor ability (and not much extra memory) to put them on. No road maps, no terrain maps, nottin’. Apparently, using the computer interface it was possible to put some simplistic ones on, again ‘iffy’.

There were a number of other minor things too. But it was a good unit to get my feet wet with, and I got it in exchange from a job I did.

So I set out to buy an upgraded one. At first I wanted to go up to the eXplorist 200 but most of the sites had, well, negligible reviews for this and most of the eXplorist series. I never had any trouble with my 100 and felt that it was built well. But others didn’t agree (the 200 is basically the same case and model with the interface and memory added, from the looks of it).

I’d always heard about the eTrex models and saw many of them in local stores. Always seemed strange that there were no eXplorists. After looking at the reviews for the eTrex models it seemed that the reviews were great across the board. Also, lots of good reviews from Geocachers themselves. They may be geeky but they know what they’re talking about.

Now, I don’t necessarily go with other’s opinions, but this seemed pretty overwhelming.

I found that the Garmin Trex Venture HC was the best fit for me. A good price yet a heck of a lot of features. I think it is lacking the electronic compass (there are a few different models of the HC, which is confusing), not to be confused with a magnetic compass. My eXplorist had the electronic compass based on the GPS reception – which was nearly useless. I relied on the magnetic compass on my survival watch instead.

Anyway, this has lots of extra memory, comes with an interface cord and map software (which is almost as exciting for me to get my hands onto as the device itself), and has its own basemaps and can have more uploaded to it. It also can calculate square area, has special Geocacher’s (Geocaching is got to be the most geeky sport ever, it’s fun but only in small doses, for me at least) and fisherman’s and hunter’s functions (the latter two I won’t be using), color screen, GPS games, a 1000 waypoints and lots of highway/route/track functions, WAAS for more accurate location, and a crapload of other stuff. Can’t wait to get it (already downloaded the manual and read through it a few times!).

So if you’re in the market fora Magellan eXplorist 100 let me know, I’ll give you a good price and show you my new eTrex Venture (when it gets here).

Marc M

I am a web developer and fitness geek, but I have a heck of a lot of differing interests.  Biking, the Internet, technology, movies, fitness, running and walking and hiking, science fiction, photography, graphics, WordPress, flying and aircrafts, pets and animals, history, and much more.  I like to stay very fit but I don’t mind sitting at my computer for work and play either.  I live in upstate New York (that’s far from New York City) in a rural area, yet close to a small city, with my beautiful awesome wife, a bunch of beloved cats and dogs and chickens in a very old multi-century house.

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