Mini-review: Pantone huey MEU101

For all of 2008 and most of 2009, I carried my DSLR everywhere I went. I photographed random stuff, people, concerts, and even a wedding. In October 2009[1. More specifically, back to back weekends.], I booked two weddings.

That’s when I finally realized that my reputation was on the line. These photos had to be perfect.

A few weeks before the weddings, I finally bought a monitor color calibrator. Brian Auer showed me the Pantone huey MEU101 while Silas and I were hanging out at his place. At under $70, I was convinced.

The huey makes it really easy to calibrate your monitor — it only takes two minutes. You can set the small program to run silently in the background, compensating for room light changes at preset intervals. The base of the stand is 2.5 inches in diameter, and the device is 4 inches long with the width a bit wider than a pen.

Not too long after that, I ordered some of my own 4″ x 6″ prints. They matched up with what I saw on the monitor — very cool. I have no fear ordering 19¢ prints through Zenfolio/Mpix[2. With this type of ordering, our color technicians will not be able to adjust density, color, contrast or other elements of your files.].

Get it.

[amtap amazon:asin=B000CR78C4]

Disclaimer: I bought the Pantone huey MEU101 with my own money. While I’m not being paid for this review, I’m an Associate.

Mini-Review: Sennheiser CX300 Earphones

A few weeks ago, I bought Sennheiser CX300 earphones to replace my pricey Shure E2c in-earphones. Wait, why? The cord that wraps around the ears frayed out. It’s the second time it happened, and my warranty has run out.

I knew I’d be taking a hit in quality, but I just needed to isolate myself from the sounds of the subway, light rail, and people chatting loudly on their cell phones.

Once I stuck them in my ears, I was able to zone out just like before. Wailing babies? What babies? I can’t hear the random preacher on the subway. The sounds of Nine Inch Nails, The Mars Volta, or Rx Bandits engulfed me.

Verdict: the Sennheiser CX300 earphones are a fantastic, cost-effective, and necessary replacement to basic earphones supplied with MP3 players.

[amtap amazon:asin=B000E6G9RI]

Trust Agents

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith just wrote and published a book called “Trust Agents.”

I haven’t read the book yet, but I know Chris. He loves helping people/companies, so I feel particularly close to him.

While all these social networks are in their infancy, people are the same. We could use advice to make sure we’re focused on the right things.

I don’t care where you buy the book from. I just think you should do it. (Jon Swanson would agree.) I’ll be ordering my copy today, too.

Initial experiences and thoughts on Google Voice

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of Google Voice. I won’t go into its details and assume you’ve read the posts about Google Voice from Lifehacker.[1. I don’t know another website discussing Google Voice as comprehensive and insightful as Lifehacker. If you know any sites or blog posts that are, share them in the comments. Don’t spam. I’ll moderate them.]

So, what are my hang-ups?

Tinfoil hat — All my eggs in one basket? I think that’s one reason why I “left” Gmail.

Lose my unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, text, picture, video messaging — A lot of my friends are on Verizon Wireless. I’d be ditching them. I’d also be losing out on the Friends & Family® feature in my plan.

Don’t think about adding your Google Voice number to that list. From the My Friends & Family® management page:

Telephone numbers must be entered in standard, ten digit format; only domestic landline or wireless numbers (other than directory assistance, 900 numbers, or customer’s own wireless or voice mail access numbers) may be added; all qualifying lines on an account share the same Friends & Family numbers, up to the account’s eligibility limit.

Devin Reams was trying this, but later found that this violates the rules.

I got my invite a week ago. Yesterday, I got my number. But, I’m still not sure if I’m going to use it. Perhaps I’ll wait a month or two to see if Google will address questions like these.

Were you a GrandCentral user before Google bought them out? What can you say to my reasoning?

Goodie #3: Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens

A new lens - Sigma 30mm f/1.4
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Since Jason Ng (appleguy on Flickr) let me try his Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens on February 28th, it was in the back of my mind. I know I rented and talked about the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens, but I think I’ll get more use out of this one.

Once my tax return got deposited, I ordered the lens. While I’ve only had it for three days, I’m pretty much in love with it.

Initial thoughts and observations

  • It’s solid. My Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II feels like a toy compared to it.
  • Focusing is quick, smooth and quiet.
  • Taking portraits wide open (f/1.4) creates awesome bokeh.
  • Lighting which would usually require ISO 1600 with my 50mm f/1.8 lens is doable at ISO 800.
  • The lens and hood look slightly glittery.
  • The lens cap design is better than Canon’s.
  • I don’t think I have focusing issues. That’s a relief.

I’m glad I got it over the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. On a crop body (1.6x), 30mm looks good.

The first photos from my new lens

Fine, don't wait for me
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More jolly than ever
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I know, right?

Time to get out of this funk and make some more awesome photos. 🙂

[amtap amazon:asin=B0007U0GZM]

Had my sensor cleaned by Canon

Camera sensor cleaned by Canon

While I was in Irvine yesterday, I stopped by Canon Factory Service Center to get my 40D sensor cleaned for free. (via Chris Lin)

The process was a breeze. They told me I could pick it up in two hours, which wasn’t a problem.

I returned a few hours later and it was ready to go, wrapped inside a bag with a plastic temporary body cap and a tag with the technician’s initials. Attention to detail has to mean it’s pristine, right?

When I got home to check out the sensor:

Sensor dust AFTER cleaning by Canon
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50mm, 3.2 sec at f/22, ISO 100

Um, what happened? If I had to ship my camera in for this service, I would be way more upset.

It looks like I’ll be going the DIY route in the future. (Marcus recommends the Copperhill method.)

Mini-Review: PG Tips Black Tea

A friend at work sent an “all staff” email, announcing the arrival of PG Tips Black Tea to our General Store.

It’s a bold, strong, black tea from the UK. Strong black tea. [It’s] also called “diesel fuel” or “builder’s tea” by those who know and love it!

Treat it well — 3-5 minutes of steeping, then [remove] that lovely little pyramid bag [from] the water before it goes bitter and nasty. Milk and sugar go well with this brew.

If you drink it after 3pm, I can’t be responsible for your insomnia.

I’m not sure how to measure its strength, but it tastes good. Really good. While it won’t replace Dunkin Donuts coffee and my AeroPress, it’s a great alternative if coffee isn’t appropriate and water is too bland.

[amtap amazon:asin=B001FA1KNK]

Review: Netflix Player by Roku

I ordered the Netflix Player by Roku as a late Christmas present for my mom. I’ve had Netflix for over a year, but sometimes we have those days (weekends) where two movies won’t cut it.

The appeal to this device is simplicity because my mom is completely illiterate when it comes to technology.

It took less than five minutes to plug in, connect to my wireless router and enter the activation code on the Netflix website. I had already queued up a bunch of movies I thought my mom would want to watch. She mentioned “The Bone Collector” the other day, so that christened the Netflix Player.


We have a flat screen tube television. I connected the Netflix Player using the composite video and stereo inputs. We don’t have a LCD high definition TV or surround sound. Our internet connection is 3 Mbps (minimum 1.2 Mbps required).

Considering what we’ve got, I’m very pleased with the quality.


Wow. The user interface is amazingly simple. Queue movies into the Instant queue through the Netflix website, then they’re available to watch from the Netflix Player. Instantly.

After watching a movie or TV show, I can just remove it from the Instant queue without needing to visit the website.


Once I pick a movie and press play, it took 45 seconds to buffer. After that, I didn’t notice any stuttering. To try the resume feature, I paused once in the movie and went back into the main menu to navigate around for a bit. Resuming play took about 45 seconds.

I paused the movie to go back a few seconds in the movie and it took 20 seconds to resume play.

To pause and resume, it’s instant.


At the time of this writing, Netflix has 100,000 DVD titles and 12,000 choices that can be watched instantly. Most of those 12,000 are older movies, but there are some new ones.

I’m not sure why some movies are available while others aren’t. Spider-Man 3 is available, but Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 aren’t. National Treasure: Book of Secrets is available, but National Treasure isn’t.

In any case, I figure that by the time I see those 12,000 titles, hopefully 50,000 more will be available.

Final thoughts

This is the simplest and least expensive way to have access to lots[1. I didn’t say comprehensive.] of on-demand movies and TV episodes. Although you’re tethered to $8.99/month (the cheapest unlimited Netflix plan), that’s much cheaper than cable or satellite. Sure it’s only been two days, but I think the Netflix Player rocks.

Quick thoughts on Songbird 1.0

iTunes is too bulky and sluggish for me. Sometimes, it’ll halt for a second or two navigating through my library. I also don’t like how iTunes installs additional software[1. “Slimming down the bloated iTunes 8 installer” by Ed Bott via ZDNet].

  • I don’t need Bonjour.
  • Apple Mobile Device Support isn’t necessary. I have a 3rd generation iPod.
  • I don’t need MobileMe.
  • I don’t want Apple Software Update installing the whole shebang of unwanted apps.

Wait, doesn’t that article explain how to slim iTunes down? Yep. How about I just want to try something new and extensible? Huh? 🙂

Enter Songbird 1.0.

After downloading the setup file, it took less than two minutes to install and import 1,900 songs (and podcasts) from my iTunes database into Songbird.

In the process, it asked if I wanted to import my iTunes database and if I needed iPod Device Support, QuickTime Playback Support, SHOUTcast Radio, and Windows Media Playback. Ratings and play counts were all intact. I was good to go.

Memory footprint: In use, Songbird got up to 100 MB, and as low as 40 MB when minimized.

Add-ons: I like Concerts,, Album Art, and mashTape.

Grouping field/tags: The grouping field in iTunes helped specify elements in my music, which enabled better smart playlists[2. Mellow, Songs with screaming, fast songs, catchy songs.]. There isn’t a similar field in Songbird. (Yet?)

Podcast management: I guess they’re not using that word and going with “subscriptions.”[3. “Songbird is the bitchinest podcast receiver ever” – Croncast] I’m totally cool with that. I need to manually find the URLs of the podcasts I was subscribed to and add them in — a pain if I subscribed to a lot of podcasts.

That’s all from me about this — for now. I think you should give Songbird a try.

P.S. I’m ignoring Songbird support questions because I’m also a new user. They have a help section.

Update 12/3/2008: Songbird runs just fine on my Windows XP-based work computer. Also, listening to music directly off my iPod get scrobbled to perfectly.[4. I remember reading that someone was having issues with that.]

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens review

A new lens - for two weeks (270/366)
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Photodoto announced that BorrowLenses would hold a lens rental giveaway for a free 2-week lens rental. I wrote:

I think I’d want to try a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 because I’m very much into street photography right now and my 50mm is too close for comfort. 🙂

Max at BorrowLenses chose me! As a cool ego boost, he liked this photo blog, too. How awesome is that?

In the course of two weeks, I took over 600 photos. As of now, 67 of them are uploaded to Flickr.

My simple review

My expectations were already high. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is slow. While the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is an inexpensive, fast prime lens, it takes a long time to focus in low-light situations. It’s pretty noisy, too. (For the price, it’s still really good, though.)

When I received the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens, I was very pleased with the build and feel of the lens. I immediately took a self-portrait [above] to test it out. Awesome. Of course, since the Canon EOS 40D has 1.6x field of view crop factor, it’s like a 136mm focal length.

I don’t pixel peep, so don’t expect that analysis here. Just know that for basically all the photos I took with it, I loved the quality and bokeh it produced. At 19% the cost of the Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM, I wouldn’t even hesitate.

My picks from the two weeks using the 85mm lens

James, our drummer
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You did well
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Kate (273/366)
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All that matters after a long day
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Kristina from The Breakup
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Extended rush (281/366)
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You can view all the photos I took with the Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM lens at this Flickr photoset.

Thanks to John at Photodoto and Max at!