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Friday, August 12 2011

Brag 2011, with John Bianchi

My old boss from the National Audubon Society, John Bianchi, played ukelele (actually banjo/uke -- someone else played traditional uke) at the Brag vaudeville show. It was fun, and surprisingly gender-bendy. Charles Goonan was the MC. He was funny, but spent too much time onstage -- considering the final acts had to cut to make time. Alas, iMovie ate much of my footage.

Brag 2011

Photos

Video of John

  1. The Sheik of Avenue B
  2. John Bianchi: With My Little Ukulele in My Hand

The Bill

  1. Amazing Amy (contortions)
  2. Stone and Stone (standup)
  3. Vic Ruggiero (guitar)
  4. Elena Giordano (dance)
  5. Rosie Rebel
  6. Leiybya Rogers (guitar)
  7. D'yan Forest (ukelele)
  8. Richard (Rosie)
  9. Danny Cohen (standup)
  10. Trixie (burlesque)
  11. John Bianchi (banjo ukelele)
  12. Rufus Khan (standup)
  13. Vic Ruggiero & the Slackers (with everyone)

Saturday, June 18 2011

Mermaid Parade 2011

Bjorn and I met up at the Mermaid Parade this year. We met a couple of Bjorn's friends, who met some more of their friends, who met and made more friends -- it was a social snowball. Mariah & Danielle looked great, so people kept stopping them to take their picture, or to have pictures taken with them -- including the Sea Rabbit and its human creator.

The whole thing felt very much like part of a Brooklyn continuum. We saw crazy colorful animal dude again -- Bjorn & Mariah see him around Manhattan, and I saw both last week and last year at Brooklyn Pride. And the lime green Charger reappeared the next day on 7th Ave, in the 7th Avenue Street Fair.

I took 941 photos (a personal record) and whittled them down to 281 at Flickr.

Monday, January 24 2011

Canon Vixia HF S20

I got a Sony video camera to take video of Julia, but an 8+ year old video camera is useless -- both the iPhone and the Canon Rebel T1i take better (and higher resolution) video, but the iPhone has no zoom and neither has high-quality audio. I have been filming and photographing friends' bands for a while now, and am getting a bit more serious about it. Unfortunately, musicians are allergic to light, so it's always an adverse environment for any kind of camera. It was time to find a video camera that can handle low light, with good/flexible audio.

I looked into Panasonic cameras briefly, but they're in the middle of updating their whole lineup, so their new models aren't available yet, and they don't have information on the old (discontinued) models online. After a great deal of searching, reading, comparing, and pondering, I decided on the Canon Vixia HF S20.

Features

  • According to most reports it works relatively well in low light.
  • It has a 3.5mm stereo mic jack.
  • It has Canon's Mini Advanced Shoe
  • 1080i (1920*1080) resolution, at 60 fields per second.
  • In "PF30" mode the camera produces 30p video, which is what I want for iMovie. Many other cameras cannot handle this, although iMovie 11 is less picky about what footage it can handle. PF24 (recorded at 24p) appears fine as well.
  • Still photography up to 3264*2456 (16:9, in video mode) or 3264*1840 (4:3, in still mode).
  • 32gb flash onboard.
  • 2 SDHC slots. I have a firmware file that should upgrade to SDXC (different filesystem with the same physical characteristics, for cards of 64gb and larger), but haven't tried it -- I don't have any SDXC media to test against. The camera does have a "Relay Recording" mode so video can overflow from onboard to slot A and then slot B, although I may never need this. I might not even use the onboard flash memory if my iMac's SD(HC) slot is much faster than the camera's USB port.
    • To import directly from SD cards (should be faster, and enables the camera to charge simultaneously), connect it to a flash reader, launch iMovie, choose Import from Camera..., and select the SD reader (my iMac's is called "Apple Internal Memory Card Reader" from the Camera: popup
  • 10x zoom -- less than some other cameras but still quite useful.
  • Popup flash/video light. Handy, although I'm not sure if this will ever be useful.

I used the S20 at a very dark show with the DM-100, and got usable (though decidedly grainy) video with clear sound.

Numbers

  • The included Canon BP-808 battery is rated at 55 minutes.
  • I bought a BP-819 with twice the capacity, rated at 105 minutes.
  • The S20 includes 32gb RAM, sufficient for 175 minutes of MXP (24mbps, 1920*1080) video.

Problems

  • The battery is frankly puny -- at highest quality, the built-in flash lasts more than 3 times as long as the puny battery. With the BP-819 as well, though, I should be able to record for 3 hours -- enough for any normal concert. For long events, I might need to bring the AC adaptor and plug the camera in. Unfortunately the camera can either run off AC current or charge the battery, but not both.
  • The S20 is overly complicated. It has 5 main modes:
    1. Dual Shot -- automatic mode, with both video and stills available, but no menu access at all.
    2. Video recording
    3. Photography
    4. Video playback
    5. Photo playback
  • Unfortunately Dual Shot mode does not allow overriding most of the defaults. This includes 60i frame rate (rather than the 30p or 24p I'd prefer), and won't even let me hide most of the onscreen status indicators.
  • Each menu command is linked to one or more non-auto modes. So to review all the settings, you must work through 3 menus in each of 4 modes.
  • The playback modes require choosing either photos or videos from one of the 3 possible sources (onboard flash, flash A, or flash B).
  • The menus are needlessly complicated. For example, when I'm shooting in "Dual Shot" mode, the steps to delete all photos from flash B are (this is different than the procedure to completely initialize flash B):
    1. Push the Camera/Review button.
    2. Push the Swap Playback(??) button (play arrow on 2 rectangles, surrounded by 2 curving arrows).
    3. Push B.
    4. Push Photos.
    5. Push Checkmark.
    6. Push Select All.
    7. Push Edit.
    8. Push Delete.
    9. Push Yes.
    10. (Wait for deletion.)
    11. Push OK.
    12. To shoot again, push Camera/Review again.
  • The touchscreen is not very sensitive. This was very annoying before I got used to it, but even now not all my presses register, and I worry about joggling the camera if I use the onscreen controls while filming.
  • No lens cap! Stupid! I cannot just throw a glass lens (or even a glass filter) in a bag and let it get scratched with every jostle. Fortunately it's 58mm, so finding caps isn't difficult, but I'm not about to pay $9 to Canon for a piece of plastic that should have been in the box anyway.
  • The dedicated low light mode is odd. It makes everything very blurry, as if it's using double-length exposures for pairs of frames. Not usable with any kind of motion. If I wanted to capture a still as video, it might serve, but the still camera would make more sense there.
  • The camera doesn't appear to work for streaming to a computer -- it only recognizes USB in 'playback' modes, not 'shooting' (recording) modes. This is a pity, as it means it can't work with iChat. I have a built-in iSight, but if I ever wanted to potcast, a better camera that isn't fixed into the monitor might be useful.
  • No viewfinder. This is a negative, but one I'm comfortable with. Canon's S21 adds a viewfinder and bumps the onboard RAM from 32gb to 64gb, but these are not worth an additional $235.

Conclusion

All things considered, I am happy with the camera. The touchscreen isn't very good and the menus are downright lousy, but I am able to mostly ignore them now that it's set up. I would have liked something simpler, but to get the odd combination of features I wanted, I needed a higher end and more complicated camera. Fortunately I can simply ignore most of the irrelevant capabilities (Direct burning of DVDs, onboard editing & effects, playlists, onboard creation of SD video from HD footage, etc.).

Sunday, December 26 2010

Brooklyn Blizzard!

We got back as the much-anticipated blizzard was beginning. It snowed all afternoon and plenty stuck. Lots of shoveling!

blizzard!

Tuesday, December 29 2009

Canon T1i Tips

I downloaded the T1i manual & product guide from Canon's support site, and put them on my iPhone for reference. The paper manuals are small, so the PDFs are quite readable on the iPhone.

According to Canon, due to the T1i's smaller-than-35mm APS-C image sensor, my 55-250mm telephoto is equivalent to an 88-400mm 35mm lens.

In normal use, Medium/Fine (3,456*2,304) is indistinguishable from Large/Fine (4,752*3,168), although I haven't yet tried Normal JPEG compression, which will probably also be just fine at about half the on-disk size.

I haven't used 1920*1080@20fps video (the T1i can't do 1080@30fps) -- instead I use 1280*720@30fps (222mb/minute, which should fit 73min on an otherwise empty 16gb card), but I am fortunately satisfied with both video & audio quality, despite the tiny on-body microphone (no audio input available). I'm not very conscious of the resolution (even though it's easy to see on the rear LCD display), so I need to get used to raising it to L for long/landscape shots and returning to M for normal/close photos.

Unlike the SD800 IS, the T1i is somewhat awkward in portrait orientation -- especially with the LumaLoop's lanyard hanging in front of my face. I like the LumaLoop, though.

I use BetterHTMLExport for exporting galleries to the web. Today I hit a new problem: my private December photo gallery is 849 photos, mostly a mix of uncropped Large & Medium T1i photos. The whole thing (including full-resolution images) is 3.2gb, and for some reason Mac OS X sees my private Samba share as an 8gb volume with 2.8gb free (it's actually 634gb with 198gb free). I've noticed this before, but it never mattered except when copying large OS installers up to my archive. Today I had to export to a local gallery folder and then copy it up to the server, because iPhoto refused to let me export 3.2gb to a volume with (apparently) 2.8gb free. Not BHE's fault, but annoying!


Update: I tested in-camera JPEG compression. Large/Normal and Medium/Fine are both very good, while Medium/Normal isn't quite as legible at 100%. Interestingly, Large/Normal images are smaller than Medium/Fine, so I'll use L/N. Bonus: I won't have to switch resolutions between landscapes & head shots.

As Ken Rockwell points out, video is compromised by how well the in-body microphone picks up noise from lens movement. So 'autofocus' (which must be manually triggered by hitting the AF button) and zooming are both quite disruptive.

Saturday, December 12 2009

Teaneck Armory

I took a bunch of photos at the Teaneck Armory, including some Cold War era tanks -- one with twin cannon barrels of some sort, and another with an engineering turret, perhaps for raising bridges or other constructions.

Saturday, December 5 2009

Canon Rebel Update

I've had the camera for a few days and taken a few dozen pictures. I like it. After taking 188 photos & videos, I haven't seen any redeye yet.

A few friends urged caution and serious consideration before deciding on Canon or Nikon (preferably Nikon), pointing out that buying into a camera system is the beginning of a (potentially very large) series of expenditures. I'm not so concerned with this, as the 1Ti is decidedly at the lower end of the DSLR scale. I had heard great things about several Nikon models, which I immediately ruled out because they were (far) over the $1,000 mark. And I don't expect to spend *that** much on this camera (system). The camera itself is about $700 at Amazon, and the accessories I'm interested in are either in the $100 range (Speedlite, prime lens, telephoto lens with discount -- thanks Jeff!) or the sub-$50 range (extra battery, camera bag), so I am not about to spend $5k on camera bits and keep buying lenses. I never expect my 'investment' in Canon-specific accessories for this camera to be higher than 50% the cost of the camera itself, so I'm not too worried about vendor lock-in.

A large part of what attracts me is simply the hot shoe, for a larger flash sitting farther away from the lens -- just about any DSLR would provide that improvement.

When I think of classy cameras, I think of Nikons. I have very fond memories of taking lots of pictures with Dad's old EM body. I didn't develop all of them, but fortunately computers have effectively eliminated developing. On the other hand, my vague nostalgia for a film camera is less of a factor than my general satisfaction with Canon digital cameras over the past 7 years.

I do still feel like a philistine (or worse, a Porsche automatic owner -- yuck!). I intend to take almost all photos in fully automatic mode: auto focus, auto arpeture, image stabilization on, shooting JPEG (rather than raw), and do no enhancement in the computer (just crop, title, and post). I just bought a much larger and more capable camera, which I will actually use like it was a pocket camera. It's a good thing the automatics are good! But I am looking for good photos, not to experiment with the camera (although I may well do some of that too...).

Monday, November 30 2009

Camera Upgrade: Canon EOS Rebel T1i

I've taken thousands of photos since Julia was born, over 4,000 (that I've kept) since March 2007 with my Canon PowerShot SD800 IS. I wear it all weekend and whenever we travel with Julia, and it takes excellent pictures. But a few years ago our friend Alex got a Nikon DSLR, and I was highly impressed. The SD800 is small (which enables me to carry it without thinking), and shares the problems endemic to pocket cameras: the flash is anemic and it's prone to red-eye. Since I don't really process my photos (I just crop them in iPhoto and post), I have a lot of photos with red-eye (most of my photos are indoor shots of Julia, which aggravates the problem). iPhoto's red-eye reduction is useless, and I don't want to go through another program just to fix red-eye. The camera doesn't pick up the normal eye color, so it's not possible to restore it, and I simply don't have enough time to fix that many photos.

Additionally, I've taken several photos at concerts, and I always have to throw most of them out due to underexposure. The SD800 will gamely fire its flash if I allow it, but it cannot illuminate people onstage unless I'm sitting right in front of them, and photos without flash (to avoid distracting performers) are typically too dark to see.

I would of course love to upgrade my SD800, but it's great for what it is. Gifted photographer and camera guru Jeff Carlson recommended Canon's new S90, which sounds in all respects improved over my SD800, but there's nothing actually wrong with the SD800 and I don't think the S90 could actually solve either my red-eye or low-light problem. A few days ago I realized that I will in fact likely never upgrade my SD800. Amy and Salome only use their iPhone cameras, and they are not unusual. I have taken at least one photo with my iPhone 3GS rather than the Canon because I wanted to post it to Twitter immediately, and that will happen more over time. I'd like having my photos geotagged, but it's a hard problem for a standalone camera. By the time my Canon dies, the current iPhone camera will probably be substantially better than the 3GS camera I have today (I can hope for flash, but don't expect it), and such a camera -- always with me, and capable of instantly sharing photos -- will probably make a pocket camera irrelevant.

So my Christmas & Hannukah present to myself this year is the Canon EOS Rebel T1i. I really like image stabilization, and Nikon doesn't offer it in the same price range. I like the Canon point-and-shoots (my only complaint is their lack of battery gauge -- for which I use CHDK), and will probably ignore most of the T1i's fancy features (including raw mode), but it should do much better with low light and red-eye when I carry it. I will get an external flash later -- not an option with SD800 or S90.

Thanks to Digital Photography Review for their 30-page review.

Thursday, November 20 2008

Presidential Perceptions & Elections

Watching W., I was struck by the feeling that Stone picked a bunch of mostly public moments from George W. Bush's career over the past 8 years, mixed in a few more from some research, and connected the dots, as if the past 8 years of national and international history flowed logically and inevitably from the parts we have seen or imagined. Everything pretty much hung together -- no unknown/undocumented causes for events we saw in the movie.

This is clearly a conceit, as obviously there have been more than 129 significant minutes during Bush's presidency and earlier life.


Watching the election returns and the early post-mortems, we saw the talking heads arguing about whether McCain's slide in the polls were triggered by his statement that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," or by Sarah Palin's Katie Couric interview. They both cited polling data with a clear drop-off around that time, and only disagreed on which of those events was the trigger.


After the election, I heard people say Obama's election was particularly welcome in Europe, "because he looks like them."


Most recently, I read Newsweek's extensive embargoed coverage of the campaigns (Obama's, McCain's, & Clinton's), and noticed that those clearly well-informed reporters explained the election outcome as an inevitable victory of superior campaigning skill and organization. They clearly think that excellent communications can make any candidate more attractive, and focused on the campaign more than the issues -- at least partially their mandate was to follow the campaign, rather than to opine after the election on who would have made a better president. Additionally, if the article had a message about which candidate would have been a better president, publishing it after the election would have been negligent.


Throughout all this, I find myself wondering: who thinks issues were the deciding issue of the campaign? Apparently not pollsters, who are tie poll results to external events (McCain's statement was not a change in policy, and neither were Palin's interviews).

Did Obama win because McCain and Palin made a serious gaffe or two, rather than because of what they all believe or plan, or how intelligent they are? Will Obama be president and democrats run Congress because the financial markets, after smoking for a year, finally began to implode in August 2008, rather than mid-November? Will Obama be president and dictate US policy for the next 8 years, ultimately because his get-out-the-vote staffers were more up-to-date? Those possibilities are all, frankly, disturbing.

Amy gave me a New Yorker article that talks about Obama as the successful campaigner and fund-raiser (fair -- he has relatively little history in government, and none as an executive), but at least they are aware of the disconnect between campaigning and governing -- most pundits appear to think that the campaign area they are closest to is Obama's defining characteristic.

Friday, February 1 2008

Wiring Art

The Pretties

Inspired by When data center cabling becomes art from Andrew T Laurence & Chuck Goolsbee's pics of Digital Forest, I took some photos of Rockefeller's new data center. We've been planning out various scenarios for 5 years at this point, but we finally moved most of our systems in this month. Note that the network guys (mostly Eric) took care to run cables connecting to ports on the left half of each device in from the left, and come in from the right for ports on the right. This makes more work for them in preparation, since one cannot simply plug a cable into a free port, but makes things look prettier, and also reduces cable snarling. 3 KVMs & baby + LCD

More Connectivity, Please

Since we first started discussing data center plans, I've been saying we need more connectivity. The new DC has 48 patches per 42U rack, and some of the new racks are indeed running out of ports before they run out of vertical space. In our racks 2U is used for patch panels and 2 cables control APC managed power strips, so we have 40U and 46 patch ports for servers. Our Linux servers have Ethernet, serial console, & KVM; Suns have Ethernet & console; Windows have Ethernet & KVM. In the worst case, 40 1U Linux servers need 120 connections, but we only have 46 available. If the rack is full of 2U Suns & Windows servers, we're okay with 6 'extra', available for dual-connected servers or whatever. As we get more dense, we begin to run out of ports. Cat6 flowing down

Blades

Blades are no better -- their chassis tend to blow out the power budget because they're even more dense than 1Us (although they do get more servers per rack), and with all the redundancy they still require a lot of cabling. For a reasonable IBM BladeCenter, we need 4 x 2 for GE switches (FC cables don't go in these patch panels). Then 2 x 2 for (Ethernet & KVM) for management modules per chassis = 12 ports for 7U. For our new HP c7000 chassis with basic networking, we have 16 GE ports, 2 GE console ports, 2 OA Ethernet ports, and 2 2 OA serial ports (again, ignoring the fiber-optic GE ports): 22 ports in 10U. I'm sure somewhere HP has demo chassis, filled them with fully-connected GE switch modules: (9 x 8 + 4 = 74 patches) & (4 x 8 = 32 fiber-optic ports) = 106 cables total (not counting power connections -- 6 in our case). In 10U -- 1/4 of a rack -- insane! c7000: 30 ports

Update 2008/2/5: Eric pointed out I was wrong about the ports -- the Cisco switches have 8 uplink ports, 4 of which are either fiber-optic or copper (you can see they're 17-20 in the photo); the other 4 copper ports seem intended for cross-linking to the other switch. So the max copper patch count remains, but the the fiber connections would be instead, rather than in addition, and we may fully connect our 2 switches with only 8 GE uplinks rather than 16 going out of the chassis.

Tuesday, December 4 2007

Holiday Albums

I take a lot of pictures of Julia, and every year we make holiday photo albums (normally from iPhoto); last year we got 6.

I just went through December 2006's photos, picking 5. Now I have 2,400 that made the initial cut from January through November 2007 to review. There are also 47 Julia took this year to check out.

It's a big job! The books tend to be a bit longer than the base 20 pages, but we like them.

Friday, September 7 2007

Questionable Content

Earlier this week, Lyman mentioned he was hooked on Questionable Content, a web comic. I told Sam (late of Rockefeller IT), who was immediately hooked. I have just now finished reading the whole strip (964 epsodes). A most enjoyable way to spend hours I did not have free!

It combines aspects of Hothead Paisan, Dykes to Watch out for, UserFriendly, and a whole music scene I know of only from The Onion A.V. Club. I'm sure there are many other references I'm not even aware of -- my comic tastes generally ran more to The Badger, X-Men, and Dynamo Joe.

It's interesting to see how the drawing and dialog have evolved over time. The art has gotten better (it was good to start with), and there has been less focus on music, with more and more sexual hijinks. I assume these have helped make QC so popular.

Monday, August 13 2007

More FDNY activity within a block

Today Paul (a neighbor we met at the playground water fountain last week) called the fire department because he saw black smoke billowing out of a building across 2nd St (again within a block of us and visible from our apartment, but a bit farther away this time). They sent 5 trucks, found a burning boiler producing CO, and put it out. Julia and I got there as they were about to pull out.

It sounds like he called in time, and everybody's fine. Here's hoping there are no more FDNY emergencies in this area for a while.

Pulling out, with Paul

Tuesday, August 7 2007

Strange Doings on 5th Ave

We noticed several fire engines and a crowd of people standing on 5th Ave and 2nd St, looking at a building across the street (on the west side of 5th Ave, between 2nd & 3rd Sts). We initially thought Gary's building was on fire, but there was no smoke -- just a couple cherry pickers working at an empty building in the middle of the block.

Observers, out our window

Ironically, we noticed on Sunday that you can see right through that building, which we hadn't really noticed before, and I took some pictures:

Looking through the windows

Very strange, and we still don't know what happened. We hope nobody was hurt.

http://www.reppep.com/~pepper/album/353-2nd/album/353-2nd/5th-ave-fire/


Update 2007/08/10: They have boarded up the windows, and continued building on top. It doesn't look like there was a fire; Scott & Christine think there was some sort of collapse of the construction work they're doing.

Now it's boarded up

Thursday, May 3 2007

R2D2

The USPS is doing Star Wars stamps, and they've decorated some mailboxes. I'd link to the Star Wars web page at the post office, but it's unimpressive & loud. But I did get some good pics of an R2D2 mailbox.

You must deliver this message, R2! Ready to serve R2D2 has a new gig Where's 3P0?

Tuesday, May 1 2007

Moved in

We're all in here. When I got in we sat on our desks, waiting for computers and chairs to arrive; now most things are unpacked and stowed. Storage is about the same as the old space. Temp is fine. Noise is definitely worse, but it wasn't great on the old space either. We'll see.

One nice thing about the Super-Tent: I got 3 gigabit Ethernet jacks. Copying a 4gb Parallels VM from Mac Pro to a first-gen MacBook Pro took 2:42 (using cp over an AppleShare mount), at 206mbit/s. The same copy to a Samba/Linux share failed (likely due to an invalid filename), but cp of the equivalent tarchive took 4:42, at 118mbit/s (apparently the tent's uplink is busy).

My workspace

Monday, March 12 2007

365 Pictures + Movies; 2 Flaws

The Canon SD800 IS started taking a long time to recharge the flash, and exhibiting the lag issues I've seen before with the S400, so I changed the battery and they went away. I'd gotten up to image 365 (videos, of which I've taken about 5, increment the image count). This is very good battery life.

First flaw: the low charge warning doesn't come soon enough. It should be before the camera's behavior is affected, with enough margin that people will normally be able to keep using the camera for a while after seeing the warning before it becomes problematic, since most of us don't want to stop shooting until we can recharge or get a fresh battery.

Second issue: Image Stabilization doesn't work when the camera is held at a 90° angle. Worse, the image stabilization icon (either a hand with motion bars or a circle with motion bars) doesn't change when IS is disabled due to orientation. I only know it's not active because I read the manual.

Overall, I like the camera very much, even though I'm disappointed they didn't fix the recharge warning (which has been this way since the S400 was new, at least).

Sunday, March 4 2007

Canon SD800 IS Micro-Review

I like the SD800 IS a lot. The face recognition (although it still feels like a computationally insoluble problem to me) actually works, and the image stabilization does too. It enables me to take slower shots (and use flash less often), which is more likely to get a blur effect on running kids -- often fun, sometimes unacceptable. I've taken 148 photos and a few 640x480x15fps videos and the battery is still fine.

My only complaint about the S400 is that it only had a "battery low" warning, and inevitably once I saw that warning, the camera's performance was already starting to suffer (particularly flash recharge times). Something showing 0-10%, 10-20% .. 90-100% charge would a major improvement, but I haven't seen anything like a charge indicator on the new one either, yet. We'll see if it gives me enough notice. If not, I guess I'll just have to get a spare battery, but they ain't cheap.

Almost everything is logical or as expected from the S400. I was surprised that image stabilization doesn't work when the camera is rotated 90°, though.

The SanDisk 2gb Ultra II SD Plus USB Card is indeed excellent.

Friday, March 2 2007

Camera Upgrade: Canon PowerShot SD800 IS

My Canon PowerShot S400 (4MP, CF) is beginning to die, finally providing an excuse to get a new camera (I have no complaints -- it has taken several thousand good pictures). The new SD800 IS (7.1MP, SD) is prettier (thanks for the pointer, Adam), slightly thinner (although it's also slightly wider, so it isn't really smaller), with a much larger LCD and much better video modes (I rarely carry my Sony DV video camera).

Even the AC adapter is thinner (and wider), with a more interesting retracting plug (not really significant, but aesthetically nicer).

I'm as impressed with my new SanDisk 2gb Ultra II SD Plus USB Card (good idea, Alex). It cost $60 and the flash is really in one half the SD card; the other half is a USB connector and plastic shell to fill out the SD card shape.

I can't help but compare it to older devices. By comparison, our original Macintosh had 128k of RAM (the new card holds 16,384 times more!) and 400k floppy drives (5,242 times more), and our first hard drive was a 45mb SyQuest cartridge drive (45 times more), and my Apple ][+ had 48k of RAM (1/43,690th as much as the SD card!). At the time, I remember deciding to get the 16k AppleSoft BASIC upgrade card, but not to max out the RAM with 64k, because I knew I wouldn't need more than 48k (then, not ever -- BillG was crazy!).