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Archive for the ‘Meta’

Whither the “good news” news stories?

July 20, 2016 @ 12:38 By: gordon Category: In the news, Meta

I started writing an entry about how I listen to the news with a certain amount of dread these days because of all the bad things that are going on, particularly south of the border. As I listed the some of the reasons (e.g., gun violence, violence towards the police, the prospects that Donald Trump could be the next US President, the Brexit vote going terribly wrong), it became increasingly harder to finish. So unfinished it remains.

There must be good news stories out there, but they seem to be few and far between.

There’s always 1 comment in your spam queue

February 12, 2016 @ 10:26 By: gordon Category: General, Meta, WordPress

As anyone who has a blog knows, there’s a whole lot of spammers out there trying to promote their crap stuff via comments on other people’s blogs. Naturally, tools like Akismet have been developed to automatically identify likely spam and generally make life harder for the spammers.

Akismet is very good at what it does. Any comments it suspects are spam end up in a queue in WordPress for later review. That review usually consists on quickly skimming the list of comments and then hitting the “Empty Spam” button because Akismet rarely makes a mistake.

Lately, one persistent spammer trying to push vitamin C serum has been consistently hitting a post I wrote about graffiti and posting one single comment. And every time I see the notification on the backend “There’s 1 comment in your spam queue right now”, I check out the queue and  hit the “Empty Spam” button.

A little while later, the “There’s 1 comment in your spam queue right now” is back and sure enough, another vitamin C spam. It’s getting kind of monotonous. The least they could do is change it up a bit so I have something new to read before I delete it.

Oh look: “There’s 1 comment in your spam queue right now”. Again. (Seriously.)

 

My photographic history

November 21, 2015 @ 14:50 By: gordon Category: Meta, Photography

As I mentioned in another post, I recently joined the Camera Club of Ottawa. This has caused me to reflect on my photographic history.

Though I’ve been taking for photos for almost as long as I can remember, starting with a 126 film camera when I was really young. When I was a bit older, I moved on to a twin-lens reflex 120 camera and learned black and white darkroom techniques from my grandfather. I finally got a Nikon N2000 (a 35mm camera) in high school, where I shot a gazillion rolls of black and white film with the camera club and yearbook and printed more black and white photos than I can count. I continued this in university where I joined the camera club, which gave me access to their darkroom facilities.

Once digital cameras hit the market, I bought a Kodak point-and-shoot type of digital camera, but I still shot film, just not as much. At some point, I upgraded to a Canon SD850IS point-and-shoot that had much higher resolution and more features.

Eventually, I bought a Canon digital Rebel DSLR and my days of shooting film were at an end. I’ve shot tens of thousands of photos since going digital. The freedom to shoot and not have to worry about running out of film or the cost of developing and printing is truly liberating. Granted, when I was shooting black and white film, I tended not to be terribly concerned about it because I was mostly shooting bulk film and did my own processing, but it’s still nice to be able to spend 10 or 15 frames (or more!) trying to get everything just perfect.

Currently, I primarily shoot with a Canon 70D, but I have some other specialized cameras, including a GoPro Hero 3 Black and a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+. While all of my cameras can record video, I don’t tend to shoot video with my 70D, mostly because you can hear the autofocus of my Sigma 18-200 chattering on the audio. I still use my Canon SD850IS from time to time and I also shoot a lot of photos with my iPhone 6. It’s amazing what you can do with the camera in your phone.

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me “so, what type of photography do you shoot?”. That’s the topic for another blog entry, I think.

Watermarks versus metadata

March 19, 2012 @ 08:45 By: gordon Category: Meta, Photography

One of the topics of conversation on #blogchat on Twitter Sunday evening had to do with watermarking images on your blog. Watermarks are usually used on stock photos to prevent their usage without paying the licensing fees. But on personal blogs, like this one, watermarks probably aren’t necessary because they aren’t stock photo services.

The general feeling seemed to be that non-intrusive watermarks, like the one in this picture of snowflakes I posted in one of my entries about capturing snowflakes, are ok. Personally, I tend to watermark photos that I’m particularly proud of so that if they do appear out of context then people will know who created them. I often use a feature in Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer to do this when I’m writing a blog entry. There are also plugins for most of the major blogging platforms (I use a self-hosted WordPress system for my blog) that allow you to watermark your images if you don’t use an authoring tool like Live Writer.

If you are trying to assert your intellectual property rights, watermarking is one approach. Of course, if your watermark is on an edge of the photo, a content thief could easily crop it without seriously impacting the overall image. Stock photo services, commercial photographers and the like fight content thieves by watermarking images in the centre of the image or on the focal point of the image, so that the image can’t be used without it being apparent that it hasn’t been licensed.

However, these more intrusive watermarks are usually overkill for images on personal blogs and can turn off potential readers. Take a look at the picture of the fireworks mortars on the left for an example of a bad watermark. (I would never watermark an image like this in real life!)

side-by-side-watermarksIf you are a professional photographer, however, you can probably get away with something like it, or a logo watermark like the one on the right, because photos are your livelihood, particularly if you’re offering the photo for sale. If I was producing an online catalogue of photos I took at the setup of the grand finale of the fireworks festival I volunteered at last summer I might consider a watermark like this because it makes the photo harder to use, tells people who took it, but isn’t so intrusive that people will be distracted by it when looking through the catalogue.

But watermarking isn’t the only option available if you want to put your “brand” on your photos. Embedding metadata in your image file allows you to include copyright and other information without changing the image itself.

imageMost digital cameras add information about exposure, lens settings and other technical specs to each photo when you push the trigger. In Windows, you can view these and edit them by right-clicking on the file in Windows Explorer, selecting properties and selecting the Details tab.

You can even edit these fields by clicking on them, making the desired changes and then clicking the Apply button. If you want to make the same change to many files, such as setting the Copyright field, you can do it by selecting multiple files in Explorer and making the desired changes and clicking Apply. Be warned, however, that once you click apply there’s no undo, so be careful and check your work.

If you use something like Adobe Lightroom to manage your photos, you can automate the process of applying copyright (and other) metadata when you import the photos from your camera. Exactly how you do this is beyond the scope of this blog entry, but if you’re using Lightroom chances are that you’re already familiar with how to do it.

If someone does copy the photo from your blog, they probably won’t think to strip the metadata from it before they use it, so if you find the photo being used somewhere else without your permission you might be able to prove it’s yours with the help of this information. But I don’t think you can 100% rely on this because it’s likely there are tools out there used by image thieves that strip metadata to hide a photo’s origin.

So, in summary, watermarking your photos can be done in both discrete and intrusive ways, but regardless some readers may be turned off the presence of a watermark. Metadata, on the other hand, allows you to embed a copyright message in your photo, but requires more effort because you usually do it outside of the blog entry creation process.

Ultimately, if you don’t want someone to copy images from your blog you probably shouldn’t post them in the first place.

2011: The year in review

January 04, 2012 @ 18:24 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, General, Geocaching, Meta, Travelling

The trend of busy years continued in 2011.

Blogging

According to my calculations, I posted 97 blog entries in 2011, with over a third of them in the month of March.

The weather featured prominently in the things I blogged about. In addition to the absolutely sucky weather that we had on a few occasions, such as 2am on March 6th or again on March 9th, I also talked about feeling the weather when the air pressure changed a lot over a short period of time.

I wrote about drivers a couple of times, including a proposal to require new drivers in Ontario to display a "P" and Queensway drivers talking on their cellphones (instead of using a handsfree device). As an aside, I’ve noticed more and more drivers holding their phones while talking lately — perhaps some more enforcement is in order.

There were some good opportunities to view the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Discovery in early March. I posted a couple of entries about how to view them and also a short video I made of one of the passes and an entry about the "making of the video". It’s a bit difficult to make them out in the video but trust me, they’re there. 🙂

April saw just two posts: an update on Ottawa’s spoiled brat punk young pirate radio station operator and the other being my thoughts on the leadership debate.

I talked about blogging burnout in May and also posted some pictures from the Ottawa Race Weekend.

June featured a classy bunch of people I called the basketball net vigilantes, an entry about why your straight cut shredder isn’t as safe as you think it is and a couple entries about dragonboating. And Starbucks Canada declared that I was awesome (but you already knew that).

In July I talked about the weather and posted some pictures of lightning and also pointed out that privatization of the search-and-rescue system is just plain stupid (again, something you already knew).

August saw me post some pictures from Les Grands Feux du Casino du Lac-Leamy that I took as one of the volunteer photographers at the show. I also gave some advice on how to take pictures of fireworks.

More weather-related entries appeared in September along with a rant about cyclists who persist in riding on the sidewalks even though it’s illegal and dangerous to the legitimate users of the sidewalks (i.e. the pedestrians). I also posted my list of essential iPad apps.

October saw a very sneaky trick pulled by Joseph Mallozzi that resulted in me being sucked into the world of comic books. Joe apologized, but the damage was already done. (Incidentally, Dark Matter #1 is coming out next Wednesday, so be sure to pick up a copy or two at your local comic book store.) I also talked about looking forward to the almost annual geocaching event that was coming up at the end of the month called Go And Get ‘Em 16 (GC3486K).

I talked about a very busy week I had at the beginning of November and then wrote a couple of entries about bus drivers. A threat to bring the buses to a halt made by the president of Local 279 of the Amalgamated Transit Union caused me to bring out my anti-ATU 279 logo for an entry. OC Transpo silliness continued when management muzzled the Singing Bus Driver. OC Transpo passengers responded with their rendition of the Transpo-hemian Rhapsody.

December included the unexpected discovery that while I thought I hadn’t done a lot of geocaching in 2011 I had, in fact, done more caching than any previous year. I also posted a couple of updates on my new addiction interest with some reviews of some of the comic books I’d been reading, including The Ray #1. As well, I posted links to the YouTube clips of A Touch Of Brass’ appearance on CTV Ottawa’s Morning Live show.

Travel

I made a number of trips for both work and pleasure in 2011. Having had my fill of winter, I headed down to Florida for a week in the middle of March. My parents had rented a place in West Palm Beach for a month so I was able to stay with them while I was there. I spent a lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing’ on the beach, interspersed with a couple of rounds of golf and some geocaching.

In late-July and early-August I took some time off and split it between spending some time at the cottage and camping at Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

Work took me to Sherbrooke for a couple of days in October. A couple of weeks later I headed off for a couple of days in Edmonton at the beginning of November, stopping along the way for a day in Toronto to take the Display Fireworks Safety and Legal Awareness course to obtain my certification as a Display Assistant for display fireworks.

Work

I had a couple of things published at work this year and being an odd-numbered year I spent a good chunk of my time getting ready for the survey I manage to go into collection, which it did in October and November.

Play

Once again, I steered for the Algonquin College Singapore Slings at the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival and the Fall 400 in Carleton Place. We won our challenge cup at the ODBF and did quite well at the Fall 400.

I logged 159 geocaches in 2011 and went out caching on 29 different days. As I mentioned in early December, this was my most active year so far even though it didn’t feel like it.

In August I volunteered as a photographer for Les Grands Feux du Casino du Lac-Leamy, which was an absolute blast. Being one of the official photographers, I had complete access to the whole site and took over 4000 photographs during the five days the festival took place. I also spent half a day with the pyrotechnicians, which was really interesting. Apparently, I was the first photographer in many years, if ever, who had gotten to visit the barge while it was being set up and photograph them at work.

I also got out golfing a number of times, including a couple of rounds in Florida. I only started golfing four or five years ago and it’s something I wish I’d started earlier in life.

Although I didn’t get out climbing in the Gatineaus this year, I managed to go to the climbing gym most Sunday afternoons. It always seemed that when I had time to go, my climbing buddy was either busy or broken (stupid ankle!) or the weather sucked.

Looking ahead to 2012

What does 2012 hold in store?

I’m going to Florida at the end of March for some sunshine, sand, saltwater and golfing, so that will be a nice break from the snow and cold. It’s only January 4th and already I’ve grown tired of winter. However, if we must have winter then hopefully it will be good for snowshoeing.

As I mentioned, I obtained my fireworks display assistant certification this past November. I’m hoping that I can get some experience helping out at some fireworks shows. (If you’re a display supervisor looking for some DA’s, please get in touch with me! Smile )

I’d like to do some hiking and camping next summer. It’s actually something I’ve been wanting to do since my trip to the UK in 2010. There are some places just over the border in northern New York that look reasonable for some initial outings.

What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Comment spammers

December 19, 2011 @ 12:36 By: gordon Category: Meta, Seen on the 'net

I happened to notice these entries in the logs while looking for something else:

208.85.175.27 - - [16/Dec/2011:07:04:13 +0000] "POST /wp-comments-post.php HTTP/1.0" 500 2367
81.17.23.117 - - [16/Dec/2011:07:04:14 +0000] "POST /wp-comments-post.php HTTP/1.1" 500 2367
194.8.26.147 - - [16/Dec/2011:07:04:15 +0000] "POST /wp-comments-post.php HTTP/1.1" 500 2367
93.187.17.200 - - [16/Dec/2011:07:04:16 +0000] "POST /wp-comments-post.php HTTP/1.1" 500 2367
213.186.122.27 - - [16/Dec/2011:07:04:17 +0000] "POST /wp-comments-post.php HTTP/1.1" 500 2367

It’s highly unlikely that five people would all be making a comment at one second intervals, so I can only assume that it’s some sort of spam network.

And sure enough, these IP addresses appear at regular intervals making similar attempts, all of which fail.

Remember: All spammers must die.

Upgrade hiccups for the WordPress Sociable plugin version 4.x

October 25, 2011 @ 17:04 By: gordon Category: Meta, WordPress

I’ve been using the Sociable plugin for quite a while to offer readers a quick and easy way to share what I’ve written on different social networks. It’s fairly configurable, allowing you to select where you want to make it easy for people to share things with. I have about half a dozen little icons at the bottom of each post that you can click to share the entry with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, or by email, or add it to your favourites, share it in Google Reader or post it to Digg or Reddit. There are other social networks that I could choose, like MySpace (does anyone still use MySpace?), but I don’t want to clutter things up with a zillion little icons.

There was a major upgrade that appeared in my WordPress control panel today bringing it up to version 4.0.3, from 3.whatever. Usually WordPress plugin updates are fairly painless, so clicking on it didn’t really concern me, so I upgraded and then watched as all my icons disappeared.

Grr. (more…)