Splash ‘n’ Shoot

Summer is all about the right mix of sun and surf. It’s the perfect time – and light – for fun pics but can be brutal on a typical camera’s innards. That’s why you need a waterproof shooter. Unlike standard models that are often accessorized with a cumbersome dive case, these cams come ready to get wet. Some are even compact enough to stow in your swim trunks. Nice package!

How We Tested
Speed: Using a stopwatch, we clocked how long each camera took to power up and take a shot. We also measured shot-to-shot time – the delay between one shot and the next (with the flash off).
Image quality: We photographed the same indoor and outdoor scenes with each camera, then compared color saturation, detail, sharpness, and presence of artifacts such as purple fringing.
Water resistance: As each camera was immersed in a bathtub for 10 minutes, we turned it on and off and took photos underwater.
Low-light shots: If you’re taking photos in the rain or underwater, you’re not going to have much light – so we looked for sharpness and color quality with low-light, no-flash shots.

Olympus Stylus 720 SW
The Stylus was built from the ground up as a waterproof point-and-shoot. The shock-resistant case protects a 7.1-megapixel sensor, so you can drop it 5 feet or dunk it down to 10 and it will still produce big, beautiful shots with rich color and lots of detail. If you’re not the outdoors type, the pocketable shape and bright display make it a fine everyday camera, too. Easy-to-use onscreen menus offer a variety of preset scene modes, both terrestrial and aquatic. And like James Bond, the Stylus goes from undersea adventure to black-tie elegance without missing a beat. Now that’s style.

WIRED: Gorgeous, compact design. Fast 2.8-second shot-to-shot time. Bright 2.5-inch LCD easy to see in sunlight or darkness. Digital image stabilization counteracts your shaky grip. 3X optical zoom. Simple onscreen menus.
TIRED: Uses xD media cards, which are less common and more expensive than SD. Internal memory holds only six images at top quality.
$400 www.olympusamerica.com

Pentax Optio W10
WIRED: Waterproof to 5 feet. 2.5-inch LCD is bright and crisp. Overall image quality is quite good. Uses common SD cards.
TIRED: Murky, noisy low-light images. Easy to leave battery compartment unlocked, which lets water in. By default, screen goes dim after about four seconds, and it’s hard to find the menu setting to tweak it.
$300 www.h2ocamera.com

SeaLife DC500
WIRED: Waterproof to 200 feet. “Shark” mode reduces shutter lag to 0.3 second. Compatible with a wide range of underwater accessories, including powerful external flashes that are perfect for deep dives.
TIRED: Requires bulky enclosure (included) to be waterproof. Only 5 megapixels. Sluggish 4.7-second shot-to-shot time. Craptastic low-light pics. Cryptic menus.
$550 www.sealife-cameras.com

FujiFilm QuickSnap Marine
WIRED: Tough plastic housing resists knocking about and is waterproof to 35 feet. Floats. Dirt cheap. Handy rubber-band strap doubles as an excellent anti-sibling weapon.
TIRED: Not digital – requires film processing. Single-use: 27 exposures and that’s it. Absence of flash limits you to well-lit scenes. Bulky. Manual film advance means you can’t shoot faster than about once every six seconds.
$15 www.fujifilm.com

Link: Splash ‘n’ Shoot

Link broken? Try the Wayback Machine.

Splash ‘n’ Shoot

The Ultimate Ultralight Camp

A new generation of backcountry gear offers the perfect balance of high performance and low, low weight. Your back will be ecstatic.

Big Agnes Seedhouse Superlight 2
It might not be blizzard-worthy, but this sub-3.5-pound, two-person tent is as easy to pitch as it is to haul. And for three-season camping, it will keep you dry and bug-free.
$299 www.bigagnes.com

GoLite Jam Pack
At a mere 1 pound, 5 ounces, the GoLite totes the load without adding to it, yet is capacious enough (2,750 cubic inches) to easily swallow a few days’ worth of gear. (Turn the page for more weekend backpacks.)
$90 www.golite.com

Kelty Light Year 45
This goose-down bag is a joy to carry, at just 1 pound, 15 ounces, and stuffs down supersmall to save space in your pack. Rated to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s great for sleeping outdoors from spring through fall.
$130 www.kelty.com

Link: The Ultimate Ultralight Camp

Link broken? Try the Wayback Machine.

The Ultimate Ultralight Camp

Blast to the Past

To decode da Vinci, you need a firm grasp of art. To learn from Archimedes, you need to get your hands on something a bit more sophisticated. Like a synchrotron that accelerates electrons to nearly the speed of light to produce x-rays. At least, that’s what scientists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center are using to reveal works by the ancient Greek mathematician that are hidden in 1,000-year-old parchment.

Archimedes, who lived in the third century BC, is credited with countless scientific breakthroughs, including developing the concept of pi and inventing an early form of calculus. Most of his works were lost to history until 1906, when scholar John Ludwig Heiberg found some of Archimedes’ treatises hidden in a medieval prayer book. The works had been painstakingly copied from an earlier text by a 10th-century scribe, but in 1229, the pages had been unbound, erased, and used to make the prayer book.

The synchrotron’s 50-micron-wide beam gives the Stanford physicists a way to see through the layers of information. The x-rays cause iron atoms in the original ink to fluoresce, giving off their own x-rays. By scanning the parchment and measuring the x-rays emitted, the researchers can build 600-dpi images of the text, including words hidden under paintings that were added by a forger in the early 20th century. Last year, researchers proved the process could work, and in July they’ll finally start copying pages. “We are reading text that no one has ever read,” says Uwe Bergmann, a staff scientist at SLAC. As Archimedes would have said: Eureka!

– Dylan Tweney

Link: Blast to the Past

Link broken? Try the Wayback Machine.

Blast to the Past

GoLite Wisp Jacket.

GoLite Wisp Jacket - UnisexGoLite’s Wisp windjacket ($50-60) is made out of faerie wings. OK, it’s really made out of alien space fabric. Whatever the material, it’s mysteriously lightweight, so the whole jacket only weighs 2.5 ounces and you can squish it down to the size of a large orange and jam it into a corner of your pack. Yet it works surprisingly well at cutting the wind and keeping you warm, and it’s even a decent repeller of rain, as long as the rain isn’t totally pouring down. I’ve taken it on every hike I’ve gone on for the past three months.

GoLite Wisp Jacket.

Subscribe to Comments.

Blog comments are like drive-by shootings: Someone fires off a comment, then disappears, never to be seen again. There’s no follow-through, and it’s hard to engage in a sustained back-and-forth shootout, I mean, conversation.

Subscribe to Comments changes that. It’s a free WordPress plugin that accomplishes something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: Make it easy for people who comment on blog posts to stay in the conversation, without demanding that they return to my website to see if anyone has responded to them.

With this plugin, all you have to do when posting a comment is check a box saying “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.” After that, you’ll get an email whenever anyone posts a followup comment to the same post. The plugin is easy to set up, works beautifully, and does wonders to keep people connected to the conversations on a blog. It should be installed in WordPress by default — and I hope it is, in future versions.

It would be even cooler if there was a “Subscribe to Comments” service that let me subscribe to the comments for any blog post, even on blogs that don’t have the plugin installed or aren’t running WordPress. But maybe I’m just dreaming. Bloglines, are you listening? This seems up your alley.

Thanks to Mark Jaquith for writing/updating this plugin and jbnimble for pointing me to it. It rocks.

Subscribe to Comments 2.0 [ Tempus Fugit | TxFx.net ]

Subscribe to Comments.

Why net neutrality is like a ton of bricks.

The old grade school puzzler goes like this: Which is heavier: A pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?

If you’re eight years old and you’re not paying attention, you say “bricks.”

JP Rangaswami, who writes the IT blog Confused of Calcutta, used a similar analogy in a discussion I had with him last week about net neutrality. (Note that JP is not especially confused. And while he is “of” Calcutta he is usually “in” London, except last week when he was in San Francisco.)

“If you want to send a ton of gold by FedEx, they will charge you the same as if you wanted to send a ton of bricks,” JP explained. “But what the telcos want to do is charge you extra for the gold, even though it has the same weight.”

In other words, they want to be able to charge Google extra to ship its video content to you–while slowing down video from, say, YouTube, even if it takes the exact same amount of bandwidth as Google’s.

The telco counterargument is that, thanks to the widespread availability of gold, we are all suddenly receiving one-ton packages–whereas before all they had to deliver was lightweight envelopes and small packages. So why shouldn’t they charge the senders extra?

In other words, we all used to just download lightweight HTML and a few graphics. But now, thanks to Internet TV, we’re filling up the pipes with gigantic .MOV files of remixed Shakira videos.

Our response should be: If you’re not charging companies enough for 45Mbps of bandwidth because their customers have the audacity to use all of that capacity, by all means, raise your rates. But don’t try to sell us some cockamamie scheme to charge different rates for different types of content, or to carry traffic from different source preferentially based on who’s paying extra for transit. Particularly if those schemes will make it difficult for us to view, read, or listen to certain kinds of stuff.

Which takes more bandwidth: A gigabyte of news, or a gigabyte of video?

Why net neutrality is like a ton of bricks.

Videonet 1.0.

The videonet is here.

Data point: People upload 50,000 videos to YouTube every day. In turn, the site delivers 50 million video views each day. That’s huge.

One of the most useful panels at Supernova covered “the rise of the videonet.” One of the panelists, Mary Hodder of Napsterization, quoted some figures on video aggregation sites — more than 225 separate sites by her count — and she’s blogged some of those stats. Here’s an excerpt of how much video traffic the major aggregators command:

1. YouTube 42.94%
2. MySpace Videos 24.22%
3. Yahoo! Video Search 9.58%
4. MSN Video Search 9.21%
5. Google Video Search 6.48%

In addition to her Napsterization site, Mary is also CEO of a startup, Dabble.com, which will enable people to find, browse, and remix video online–regardless of whether it’s been posted at YouTube, Google Video, or wherever. Dabble is scheduled to launch in a few weeks.

One thing is becoming really clear to me: There’s a huge amount of energy and excitement around the creation and distribution of short-form video. It’s all over the place right now, and that means it’s incredibly hard to predict where it will go, what formats will work, who are going to be the big players. A lot of what works is just fun: Ask a Ninja, Mentos and Diet Coke, Where the Hell Is Matt. Cool stuff. But how do you find it? Word of mouth, mostly: Blog links, viral tactics (“share this video”), get-togethers like Vloggercon. Quality is all over the map. Standards are almost non-existent (why doesn’t anybody tell you how long a video is, in minutes and seconds, somewhere in the HTML describing it?). Tools for downloading video are often incompatible and incomplete.

All that is OK, and it’s too soon to start carping about inconsistency because the looseness allows a huge amount of innovation to happen in a short amount of time. But it is hard to find what you want. Given how dispersed the videonet is right now, I think there’s a huge opportunity for video search engines like Dabble. It’s engines like this that will make it possible to find videos, and in so doing will bring millions of people into the videonet as creators and as viewers. This is exactly how it happened when Yahoo opened the door to the Internet back in the mid-1990s.

And for those of us who are creating “content,” the trick is to figure out how to do it fast enough and fun enough.

Videonet 1.0.

Supernova 2006 observations.

It’s a stellar networking event.

The presentations were way too long, and too many of them were packed with empty platitudes about collaboration, change, innovation, “user generated content,” the “long tail,” blah blah blah. I nearly fell asleep several times.

There was a lot of wit and intelligence on the IRC back channel. I wish more of it percolated up into the public discussions.

Being a journalist can still get you into a conference but it no longer commands much respect. Being a podcaster or a blogger with VC funding, however, will make people treat you reverentially.

Being anybody with any kind of funding, actually, will get you taken seriously. People, have we learned nothing from the dot-com debacle? It is possible to have VC funding and still be full of shit.

What was missing: Anybody asking hard questions. Well, with one exception. And her apt questions (why can’t I find a wireless carrier who won’t charge me ridiculous roaming fees? And why don’t you start taking the 4th amendment seriously?) were mostly brushed off. Too bad.

Rapid-post podcasting (and ultimately I think videocasts) have great potential. Next time I go to a conference I am taking a camcorder for on-the-spot videoblog interviews, no question.

[tags]supernova supernova2006[/tags]

Supernova 2006 observations.

We’ll just change the copyright.

Conversation at Supernova today:

Big podcaster: We had over one million people listen to that podcast!

Intel exec: Yeah, we got about 200,000 downloads from people you referred to us. So that was pretty good. Not, you know, millions, but pretty good.

Me: Is there any way you can tell whether people actually listen to a podcast after they’ve downloaded it? [I’m asking because I probably download 6 podcasts for every 1 that I have time to listen to.]

Podcaster: No. ITunes knows, but we don’t. Actually, our flash player has the ability to tell us how much of a podcast you listen to, but that only works if you listen right on the page. If you download it, we can’t track it.

Intel exec: In the future, audio players should just report that back. We can put metadata into the audio files that tells the players to let producers know whenever you’ve listened to their content, or how much of it you’ve listened to.

Me: Some people might get a little upset if you did that kind of reporting.

Intel exec: Well, we’ll just change the copyright to say that if you want to listen to our content, these are the terms. You don’t like the terms, fine, don’t listen to it.

Me: [[speechless… wondering whether this guy really does have the power to rewrite copyright law…]]

[tags]supernova supernova2006 copyright copyfight drm[/tags]

We’ll just change the copyright.

Supernova 2006

I’ll be at Supernova 2006 here in San Francisco, tomorrow and Friday. If you’re going to be there, drop me a line and let’s see if we can meet up: Email dylan_tweney at ziffdavis.com (or just post a comment here).

PS I’m also going to try to spend some time at Bloggercon, although it looks horribly oversubscribed, so I may not get any further than the wifi aura surrounding the actual conference room.

[tags]supernova, supernova2006, bloggercon[/tags]

Supernova 2006