Older blog entries for BenFrantzDale (starting at number 34)

It would be really cool if digital cameras could digitally sign the pictures they take. I'm not sure how feasable this is to do securely since the private key for the camera would have to live in some form on the camera. Even if hardware modifications would be needed to extract the key, that would probably be enough for most use if the camera were tamper-evident.

This might improve the admissability of digital photos in the courtroom. It might also make it easy for editors to avoid the recent LA Times photo that was doctored. For photojournalists one would probably want a wrapper format that included the full, signed image, along with cropping and color correction information.

I'm quite impressed with MichaelCrawford's Living with Schizoaffective Disorder article. I have had some experience around someone who was mentally ill; seeing someone smart and rational discuss these issues publicly is a great step towards destigmatizing this class of illness.

Today I altered Gallery so that it displays camera metadata as well as have Shutterfly print that metada on the back of prints. I posted the modification on the Gallery discussion board.

To me metadata is one of the coolest things about digital cameras. I would love to see GPS data included as well. I'm sure it won't be too long. Either way, having my Gallery pictures say things like “2/25/2003 17:33:54 146mm 1/30 f/3.0” under them is very cool.

I had some harsh words for Snapfish in a recent diary entry. I since heard back from them that the color distortion I experienced was a fluke. I may try them again, but so far I've had great luck with Snapfish. Their customer service has returned my emails quickly and competently and the image quality is great.

I implemented Monte Carlo Localization for my Robotics class. It's a great example of a simple idea that works really well. In the process of that I discovered that math.h includes the gaussian error function. Also, I learned that Maple can generate C code. Look at Maple's codegen page for details.

Last week I attended a LinuxMovies meeting, which was interesting. It was interesting to hear about CinePaint and it's forking from the GIMP. While it's too bad that the projects are diverging, it really sounds like the tools want to be too different. Perhaps low-level things technically could be shared, but doing so probably isn't in the best interest of the projects as a whole.

27 Mar 2003 (updated 27 Mar 2003 at 04:40 UTC) »

I got digital prints from Shutterfly today and found them to be massivly better than prints from Snapfish.

I found my prints from Snapfish to be washed out, and to have color distortion around edges. I haven't tried the default Shutterfly settings, but they do let you turn off all pre-processing, which is what I did.

Here is a comparison of Snapfish (left) and Shutterfly (right). Note the washed-out snow on the ground and the chromatic distortion around branches and rocks in the Snapfish version. The original image is here. I know who's getting my money in the future.

Also, why can't digital photo printers send you a calibration print so you can tune their color adjustment to match your monitor? Why don't they print photo metadata (e.g., exposure information) on the back?

26 Mar 2003 (updated 26 Mar 2003 at 04:49 UTC) »

As part of a web database project, I've started to wonder what the “correct” way is to enter data into a database. It seems to me that having python scripts call SQL insert statements directly isn't good encapsulation, since changes to the database structure would break it. We have been using database functions for this, however they are limited to 16 arguments which isn't great when you are trying to input every possible address field, for example.

How is this done in real life? It seems like there should be something comperable to a view, but for doing insertion.

I set up a gallery (gallery.sf.net) for my photos. I'll try to set it up so it shows the technical information about all of the pictures, but at the moment jhead, the EXIF reader that Gallery supports, doesn't seem to want to show as much metadata as metacam does.

Someone (with too much power) decided that my school is not prepared for terrorism and now all but the "front" door to every building is locked douring business hours. One of my professors posted on a chat list that this measure was tantimount to wearing a tinfoil hat to protect from fallout. To make his point, he has been wearing a tinfoil hat.

I really hate how fast food places think sextuple-thick milikshakes are desireable. I only get milkshakes at places like that when I'm on a driving trip, but really, who wants to suck icecream through a straw. (I wonder what the dynamic viscosity of a triple-thick milkshake is.)

11 Mar 2003 (updated 11 Mar 2003 at 03:28 UTC) »

I went flying yesterday and had a great time. The fact that I have a lot of sailing background was helpful for feeling comfortable. Here's a picture of the Mudd campus. (Yes, that really is basically the entire campus and yes, it was a smoggy day.)

I've been doing a lot of school work.

I discovered today that my heat transfer professor was a professional skateboarder when she was a teenager. Wow.

Stevey: good luck. I hope quiting is going well.

3 Mar 2003 (updated 3 Mar 2003 at 08:13 UTC) »

Having a digital camera continues to rock.

I went to a wine tasting today. I had no idea white desert wines existed. They are hardly wine. One could say they are just candy, but at the same time, I quite like them. I'm impressed.

I watched AI for the first time last night and really liked it. Like many I'd heard mixed reviews and didn't watch it in theaters. I still don't completely know what to think, other than that it's interesting. It did make me feel deeply sad, though, more than any movie I can remember.

In robotics, my group has droped the Palm Pilot Robot made by Acroname in favor of a Handy Board powering a Lego robot. It amazes me how difficult the Acroname robot was to work with. Granted we were using GCC which is unsupported, but their API really seemed hackish, complete with #define-ing blocks of code to create cross-platform compatability. Yuck.

The Handy Board worked great the first time, complete with awsome step-by-step photo instructions included in the Linux Wizard we used. If you are writing a wizard fore configuring hardware, try using real photos, it really increases your “it worked for me” credability, if nothing else.

I now am the proud owner of a digital camera. As one who has loved his SLR, the relationship is over. I really don't see any reason to go back to film. Wow. I've got some pictures at http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~ben/pix/camera/

25 Feb 2003 (updated 25 Feb 2003 at 06:02 UTC) »

I got new glasses. Finally. Now I can see clearly, but everything looks small. I'll get used to it, but it's always weird.

Why is it that FedEx doesn't update it's tracking information in realtime? I apparently had a package delivered today but I didn't know 'till it was too late to get it. I want my camera :-)

I have galeon2 running. It's very cool, especially with all of the nice Bitstream Vera fonts. It is anoying that ctrl+N makes a new window when I'm typing in a text widget, rather than moving me down a line.

One thing really annoys me about browsing the web. Many pages, the Advogato diary page included, fill the width of the browser. This means lines are like 22 lines long, which is far too long for regular reading. I've found this is a good use for the browser sidebar — to make the page narrow enough to read.

I've been trying to figure out how to make a good shot of espresso. I have a low-end Krups espresso maker, which works all right but I never get a good crema. I did discover today that it really is important for it to take about 25 seconds to pull a shot. This requires tamping the grinds fairly hard, but it definately tastes better.

21 Feb 2003 (updated 21 Feb 2003 at 04:30 UTC) »

That was a long week.

I am working on a robot project with the Palm-powered robot from Acroname. Unfortunately, they are not particuarly gcc friendly. I need to figure out how to make the palm compiler dynamically link against palm libraries. I'm sure it's in the docs somewhere.

Photography is Dead. Long live Photography.

I'm going to be getting a Canon PowerShot G3 digital camera for a graduation/birthday present. The day after I learned that I wound up borrowing the CS department's G1. I must say: Wow. I've done analog photography for quite some time and I really don't follow the consumer electronics market as much as many CS majors. I really hadn't realized just how good digital has gotten. The roll of film I have in my camera now may well be the last roll of film I have processed in several years. With digital, in adition to being able to control apature, shutter and focus manually (or automatically), I can jump between film speeds at any time. Plus I can look at the picture when I take it so I know if it came out right. Also, flash ram is less than a dollar per picture and is rewritable. (Obviously.)

I'm sure I this all sounds silly. I knew all of this technology was there, I just had no idea how cool it was until I could play with it. I'm eagerly awaiting my camera. :-)

This got me to finally set up my USB port. It turned out all I neded to do was apt-get a few things. Now I have my optical mouse working simultaniously with my TrackPoint, both with a good refresh rate, and with the scroll wheel working. This makes me very happy.

Feature idea for presentation software: Give an estimate of presentation time. Simply t = A×NumSlides + B×TextLength + C×NumPictures + D×MediaLength + E. The constants would have to be determined approximately. If the user were able to give feedback (as in “it took 20 minutes and I'm only to slide 12”) then the constants could be adjusted to match the user's style. (Or polite suggestions could be made regarding the style of the user's presentation.)

No. Of course I didn't see an overly-long powerpoint presentation today.

21 Jan 2003 (updated 21 Jan 2003 at 19:02 UTC) »

I am now back at school. My classes start this afternoon.

I finished Gödel, Escher, Bach last night on the plane. If you havn't read it, do.

Another good book is A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider. In a way it's a helthfood book, but that doesn't do it justice. It is all about making food that tastes good. It's full of ways to improvise and isn't afraid to use bacon fat when that's the best way to flavor things.

I had a great vacation, including getting to visit some monkes from Ximian in Cambridge with whom I played GTA:Vice City for the first time. I have never been a gamer, but I have always loved ritch computer worlds and good graphics. This has both.

I got my mom off of AOL. She now uses Outlook Express which she already likes much more. (If only there were Evolution for Windows.) To those of you with friends on AOL, my own experience was that it was easier than I expected to move over.

I am strongly considering switching distros from Debian to RedHat. While I love what Debian is doing in general, I've found it hard to keep a reasonably-stable bleeding edge GNOME build using Debian's packages. I think I'll be able to be more productive doing my part to help the GNOME project if the only thing I have to worry about is breaking GNOME.

Fun fact: According to NPR [real audio], the word “acronym” is often misused. According to that segment, things like radar, laser, and GNOME are all proper acronyms — words formed from the letters of a longer phrase. However, when the resultant “word” is said letter-by-letter, as in GTK, KDE, or TCP/IP it is technically an “initialism.” The definition is fuzzy, and some things like SQL often go both ways.

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