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Hi again, blog!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hello all, I guess I’ve been missing in action for way too long. In my absence, I:
1. Bought a Canon G11 and 270EX
2. Formed a brand new band (together with numerous purchases of all-too-expensive music gear)
3. Saw Jamie Cullum, Makoto Ozone and Maksim live at the Esplanade
4. Adopted a stray black kitten (now named Sooty)
5. Strengthened bonds with important people
6. Got a part-time job at an authorised Apple Campus Reseller
7. Helped organise one last MacNUS event (the Bazaar)
8. Handed over Presidency of MacNUS
9. Decided to make music my lifelong goal
10. Celebrated numerous birthdays
11. Became ungloriously and atrociously broke
12. Tried out for another band
13. Fell seriously in love with jazz (as you surmised from #3)
14. Ate countless good meals, both in and out of the house
15. Enjoyed my life even more than before (feeling like I love the whole world)
16. Found a diamond in the rough

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Phottix Tetra Wireless Flash/Studio Trigger Set

Thursday, September 17, 2009
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Being a new strobist, and wanting to experiment with off-camera lighting, I decided to purchase a wireless flash trigger.

Let me explain my purchase decision here. I did not want to invest too much in a lighting system when I knew next to nothing about off-camera lighting. So, the highly-acclaimed Pocket Wizards were definitely out. But I did need something that would work with my newly purchased 430EX II strobe, and also offer the convenience of wireless triggering. Most optical triggers, except the Wein Peanut, were out too. However, I read about inherent problems with the new Wein Peanut. To be on the safe side, I opted for a wireless system using radio frequency, which is more expensive, but tends to be less restricted than Canon’s proprietary wireless infrared trigger system.

So, the Phottix brand is kind of an el-cheapo brand which is actually manufactured by a Chinese company. I decided to try my luck, and ordered it from ShutterCentral for S$60. Being a company in Singapore, they offer cheap shipping (local normal mail rates).

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The kit includes one transmitter unit, powered by a 12V battery, two receiver units and mounting brackets, powered by AA batteries, two (very short) PC sync cables and two 3.5mm to 6mm adapters.

Set up was a pain at first, as I couldn’t get the battery door on the receiver units to open. Turns out, it’s easier if you use something hard and flat to push the clip inside, like a letter opener. After I installed the batteries, the darned thing wouldn’t work! According to the instructions, pushing the test button on the transmitter would cause the LED lights on both units to flash, but that failed to happen. I was feeling pretty dismal, and thought I had to return the goods.

Well, I suddenly thought of checking the battery inside the transmitter, and got out a screwdriver to open it. I used a size zero Phillips (crosshead) screwdriver to do the job. The battery tested fine, and after I replaced it, the unit suddenly started working!

The package states that it is compatible with my Canon SpeedLite, and “other flash models with a trigger voltage of 12V or lower”. I guess my Sunpak RD2000 has a trigger voltage higher than 12V. Of course, my SpeedLite worked fine. Surprisingly, a very old flash that I dug out from my father’s camera equipment stash, a National PE-201M, worked well. Unfortunately, that flash has no manual adjustment, so it releases at full power every time. Man, is that thing bright!

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Here’s a test shot using my new gear:

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New strobe, lens and falling in love with film again

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I do realise I haven’t been posting since April — I’ve been to summer school in Canada, traversed 6 U.S. cities in 2 weeks, had a change of future career plans, and enjoying my life immensely right now. I’ll definitely try to post more regularly from now on. 😀

So I bought myself a 430EX II from B & H Photo, a second-hand 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, and developed my first roll of film from my Rainbow V.

I love some of the photos I took on film. They’re gorgeous. I also went a little crazy with self-portrait shots using my new flash.

MacNUS Poster Candidate (2)IMG_2602Playing with coloursFrom the HeartIMG_2620MacNUS Poster CandidateThe Two Back AlleysHDRKite RunnerHDB

If you want to see a few of the photos I took over the summer, just head over to my Flickr page.

Learn C on the Mac by Dave Mark

Sunday, April 26, 2009
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Whew! After one semester of bleary-eyed coding, I’ve finally completed my C programming module, CS1101C. I actually used this book instead of my set text: Learn C on the Mac by Dave Mark (Apress). It’s a very beginner-friendly book, both clear and concise for easy reading. I highly recommend it for anyone who’s totally new to programming and wants to start off with plain C.

Their recommended roadmap for would-be Mac and iPhone developers is first C, then Objective-C, and finally Cocoa / Cocoa Touch, and that’s where I’ll be heading.

I can’t emphasize enough how excited I am.

Times (v1.1.1) by Acrylic Software

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
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Times is a RSS feed reader with a new approach to reading your news. You can organise your articles just like articles in a conventional newspaper.

I’ve been trying out Times for about 2 days now, and I must say I kind of like the refreshing approach it takes in this age cluttered with a mass of different RSS feed readers.

With a UI complete with page flipping transitions and lovely typography, I almost feel like I’m at the dining table reading a newspaper at breakfast. Occasionally, the animations lagged a little, but overall, the app is very responsive.

It’s really simple to use Times: You first add your feeds, and then add Pages, which are like categories, such as News, Sports etc.

To create your ‘newspaper’, simply drag your feeds into the sections of each page you want the articles to appear in.

By default, Times dims your articles after you’ve read them. This is a nice touch as the light grey colour really allows those articles to become non-obtrusive, allowing you to pick out unread articles in a glance.

A feature that I really like is Shelf, which is a place to temporarily store articles that you want to read later. It’s easy to access too: just hit the spacebar and the shelf pops out.

Times tries to download the full articles when possible. The feeds page curls down to reveal the article when you click on it.

It also meets our need to social network by allowing direct posts to Twitter, Facebook, Delicious and Digg.

I had a few hiccups importing my feeds from NetNewsWire; several of my feed names ended up as blank fields and others kept disappearing from my pages. Manually adding the rogue feeds solved all my issues, but Acrylic may want to iron out the bugs with importing feeds.

Another issue that I have with Times is the poor feed management. Sure, there is a search bar, but the array of feeds in a landscape box at the top (that only accommodates 3 rows) just doesn’t cut it. There’s no categorisation or folders, nor is there enough space to store many feeds. The argument for the latter is probably that this app is not for storing ALL your feeds; rather, it’s an app to read all your most important feeds. It’s also slightly annoying to have to move your cursor horizontally rather than vertically (All Macs are now widescreen) to scan across feeds, and this is aggravated by no scrolling implemented in the feed list. In fact, this is reminiscent of the widgets ‘manager’ in Dashboard that slides out from the bottom when you click the large ‘X’.

However, despite my complaints, Times makes reading articles a joy. I can foresee it becoming my RSS reader of choice when I want to do reading at length.

You can download a free trial of Acrylic’s Times here.


DDR3 RAM from Crucial

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

picture-1[Image Credit: Crucial.com]

I finally decided to spring my wallet on a memory upgrade for my MacBook. Checking out the prices at Sim Lim, OWC and Crucial, I decided to go with Crucial as the total cost (including shipping) was the lowest of the three (USD 82.98, which is about S$125). Apple’s Singapore store sells the RAM upgrade for S$160.

Can I say, “FINALLY”? I’ve been dying to upgrade ever since I got my new Unibody MacBook. 2 GB just doesn’t cut it. Even when I only open a couple of apps (about 4), the RAM usage is already almost at its maximum; what more when I’m running Windows using VMWare Fusion? I’m taking Programming in C this semester, and I could only get their CourseMarker software to run on Windows. Documentation for running it on the Mac was virtually non-existent. So, yes, I’m using a fair amount of Windows this semester; it’s pretty unavoidable.

My Mac is running really smooth now. It’s a joy to use. My advice for medium to heavy users like me who run memory-intensive apps like Adobe’s CS3/4 apps or Aperture 2 frequently, or those who like running a whole bunch of Apple’s stock Mac apps like iPhoto, iTunes, Mail and Safari simultaneously: upgrade your RAM to 4 GB (at least). The maximum (unsupported) amount you could go up to is 6 GB, if you would care to shell out the dough for it.

iPhone OS 3.0 beta installation warning

Thursday, March 19, 2009
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1. Do not install iPhone 3.0 beta unless you are a registered iPhone Developer. Your phone will be locked unless you log in with a valid iPhone developer account and register your iPhone as a developer device.

You can either register at USD99/year at developer.apple.com, or register your phone under another developer’s account. A developer can have up to 100 phones registered under their account. The developer has to import the license and allow you to activate your phone on their computer.

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Preinstallation advisory warning

2. iPhone OS 3.0 upgrades your baseband to 4.x.x from 2.x.x, so you cannot downgrade the OS or restore to a previous version once you upgrade to 3.0.

3. You will be able to update your OS to the release version of 3.0 when it arrives this summer, and also cancel the device as a testing/developer device.

Upgrading to 3.0

1) Download both the SDK and Beta OS
2) Run the SDK (XCODE App) with your iPhone attached
3) Copy the long UDID string of characters
4) Log in to your iPhone developer account
5) Register your iPhone as a developer device using the UDID string (paste it here)
6) Close iTunes
7) Go back into XCode and Restore the OS (basically point it to the downloaded iPhone OS 3.0 beta file)
8) Once complete, unplug the iPhone, open iTunes and replug the USB
9) Either setup as a new device or restore using your old image. NOTE: Restoring will bring over your network settings, some saved App files, etc. but will not sync your Apps/Photos/Music automatically.
10) Sync
11) Oh Happy Day! You are now done and up and running!

Disclaimer: The above information was taken from the user forums at CrunchGear, and are not endorsed by me.