Offutt Air Force Base Air Show 2010

The annual Offutt Airshow this year was on August 28th and 29th.  I went on the 29th with @Rossnelson and had a great time.  Security was really tight, we had to go through metal detectors and then most people were wanded after, they did not give second chances of removing more metal to go through again.  They were also  not allowing bags in so I had to carry my camera around my neck the entire day and only bring one lens.  I brought the 70-200 and was glad I did.  One last thing about the security was that Ross was wearing a t-shirt from the band Bad Religion and he got a talking to going through security about it.  The guard thought he might be trying to make a political statement and said he may have to turn it inside out if asked to do so. Luckily other service men knew of the band and let us through.  Security was nearly as tight as an airport.  I guess this was because we were on an active air force base.

The day was long and hot, people took cover as the day went on under the wings of aircraft.  I loved seeing people sitting in lawn chairs under the huge wings of a B-52 or under the fuselage of a B1.  We walked around and saw all the static planes which were too many to list.  We then watched the aerial show which was good.  My favorite by far was the F-22 Raptor. It was such an impressive fighter plane. The thrust vectoring really made it very maneuverability and agile.  It also was so stable at any speed it seemed.

This was the first time shooting anything similar to sports on with my Canon 7D.  I used Al Servo and a combination of Auto focus Expansion when on the center point. It put emphasis on the center point (or where ever you wanted it) but also included one above, below, left and right.  It worked well. for slower moving planes.  For the really fast ones I used the new zonal function AF selection and choose the center group. This grabbed the center 11 points and used them. As long as you kept the points on the object and the AF drive engaged (I did this manually with the AF button) it worked well.  I was amazed at how well it would track planes coming at you quickly or going away from you.  The hardest part was panning quick enough to keep it in frame.  For sports this camera is a huge step up from my old Canon 20D.

Here are a few photos from the day more can be seen at Flickr in this set here.

More can be seen at Flickr in this set here.

Security the Family PC

This story was Originally Posted at by me, the author.

The SANS center also known as the Internet Storm Center is a volunteer organization dedicated to computer and Internet security. They rely on volunteers to detect problems, analyze threats and provide technical and procedures to the general public and IT professionals to address these threats. I visit their website at daily to see the new threats that I need to be aware of as a general PC user and an IT professional at work. It is very well known in the security community of posting quality information in a very timely manner.

They have designated October as Cyber Security Awareness Month and have dedicated that efforts this year will be focused on “Securing the Person”, in other words they are talking about the human element of security. These things go beyond the everyday security practices of “Run a Firewall” but should be helpful for anyone who does any technology trouble shooting. I plan on highlighting some of each days topics that I think will be most helpful for readers adding comments and other thoughts along the way.

Today’s topic is “Securing the Physical Family PC”. Anyone who has a computer at home should consider implementing at least some of these tips. They are designed for families but most can apply to anyone. I will talk more about general computer security such as software updates, network security, etc in my next post.

  • Backup your computer.
    • In my opinion this is the most overlooked area in home computing today. We live in a digital world today, with most people owning a digital camera, purchasing digital content (music, movies, software, games, etc) but they fail to prepare for problems. Computers have problems from time to time, hard drives and other hardware fail, computers become infected with viruses and malware, acts of God (Flood, Fire, Tornado), and theft all happen. What would you do if your house burned down? Would all of your digital photos, turbotax records, music from the past 5 years burn with it? The answer should be no. Backing up for protection from a hardware failure is easy with a local copy on another hard drive but it is not perfect because it does not protect against theft and acts of God, a more perfect solution involves an offsite backup. Many online cloud solutions are good for this, each service is a bit different and has pro’s and con’s. My favorite of the moment is Backblaze but other good options are Mozy and Carbonite. Take a look at them and consider implementing something on your computer today. All of these services offer encryption and trial periods. With any cloud based backup solution the initial backup may take days but in the end it is worth it. On my list of To Blog about topics includes a couple of backup articles. More will follow.
  • Use an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) for PCs, laptops have their own built-in UPS – the battery.
    • Many people understand that a computer should be plugged into a surge protector, but a UPS is an even greater source of protection. UPS’s allow a PC to run on battery power should the power dip, or spike or go out and most initiate a safe shutdown procedure to protect your hardware from damage that would result. In the midwest they are very handy to help with extreme weather.
  • Document computer details in writing (serial number, software, receipts, BIOS password, etc.) and keep the documentation in a fireproof box or safe
    • This is very helpful information if you ever have computer problems or need to call your manufacture for support. It is also helpful for an insurance inventory. Consider storing a copy online in the cloud as well. Dropbox, Lastpass, and a Google Document (for non sensitive information) are both good ways to do this. Also keep the information up to date
  • Keep all of the hardware and software manuals, plus any software CDs/DVDs in one place that is easy to find
    • Common sens here, it makes it easy to find when you need it in a panic situation.
  • Use a cable lock to keep intruders from stealing the computer should there be a break-in
    • No device makes it impossible for a thief to steal if they really want it. A cable lock does slow someone down. This may seem overkill but works especially well in some environments (Think college dorms).
  • Throw a towel over the web cam (better: unplug the web cam)
    • The recent news story of school district that was found to be spying on students while at home by accident with the school issued laptops, integrated web cams (News stories here: Story 1, Story 2, Story 3) have brought this to the attention of the public. It is possible for a virus of malware program to do the same thing. As a result the easy solution is just to cover it up. On laptops with integrated web cams a piece of blue painters tape or sticky note works well too. Most people don’t use their web cams all the time so this is an easy way to improve general security.
  • Unless it needs to always be on, consider turning it off when not in use
    • Computers use a lot of energy and create a lot of heat. Consider shutting it off or enabling sleep or suspend mode on your operating system to control this.
  • Keep plenty of room around the PC so that air can flow through to cool it
    • Computers are hot and need lots of air moving through them for cooling. Under the desk in the corner on the dirty floor is not the best place for a PC. Out of sight, out of mind is not a good policy to follow here. At least once a year (preferably once a quarter) unplug the computer, take it outside, open up the side of the computer case, and then blow the dust out with a can of compressed air. This is easy to do and will keep the computer running much cooler. A cool computer is less likely to have stability problems and hardware failure.
  • Keep all computers in full view (no hidden machines, no illusion of privacy)
    • This one is really designed for families with children. A PC in the living room that the kids use really do allow for parents to keep an eye on what the kids are doing online. Also for younger kids who are using the computer for homework it can help to keep down the many distractions they face (IM’s Facebook, etc)

Here is a link to the original SANS article

Manual Lens Portrates on a Canon DSLR

I have gotten very interested (With the help of an influential friend) in some of the older classic manual lenses, so I now have a SMC Pentax 55mm F2 Type K in Pentax mount and a Jupiter 9 85mm F1.8 M42 that I have been mounting on my 7D and I wanted to try them out so I went out with a friend and had some fun around town. The 85mm is hard to focus because it has such a small DOF and its goes through 2 converters to mount on my camera so its no perfectly tight. The lens is also a bit stiff, but optically its good. I need more practice. The Pentax is a great lens & I am getting the fever for more. Its very sharp and extremely mechanical. Great little lens. Thanks to my model Megan for the great job, I could not have done it without you.

Pentax 55mm

Pentax 55mm

Pentax 55mm

Pentax 55mm

Sigma 10-20mm

Jupiter 9 85mm

Jupiter 9 85mm

Jupiter 9 85mm

Canon 50mm F1.8

Canon 50mm F1.8

To see the full gallery Click

Hijinksinc – Nothing to See Here: Starcraft 2 is NOT killing graphics cards

I recently started to blog for Hijinks Inc a local technology & gadget blog. I am excited to start doing this and have several ideas of stuff to write on focusing on photograph & computer security. I hope this gives me a good reason to produce new content as well. I will be reposting articles with the permission of Hijinks Inc. Be sure to follow them on Twitter at @HijinksInc

Originially published on August 4, 2010 at Hijinks Inc

With the launch of Starcraft 2 on July 27th, 2010 people were excited to get their hands on this long awaited game. Development of the game started in 2003 and had been delayed or postponed several times due to other games Blizzard was producing at the time.
Since the launch minor issues have been growing, and today Blizzard Confirms an overheating issue. However, this story has been spun by the technology community even to the point where Slashdot picked up on it. It has been given menacing sounding titles such as “Is Starcraft II bad for your graphics card?” by ZDnet and “Is Starcraft II Killing Graphics Cards” by Slashdot. A much more appropriate title to the actual problem is one given by OverClockersClub “Starcraft 2 causing some GPU’s to Overheat”

The problem is that during some of the in-between mission screens, cut screens and menu screens are not frame capped like the actual game play is. This causes the GPU to render these screens as fast as possible. Since these screens are simple and, for the most part, static, the computer has an easy time and is able to render these very quickly causing the GPU to heat up. This increased heat and power consumption exposes flaws in Starcraft II players’ computers, causing crashes, reboots, and even some claimed GPU failures.

Now, is this Blizzard’s fault? No, it’s really not. Gamers should expect games to tax their computers; this means heat. Blizzard and other game/program publishers should expect their customers’ computers are free of dust and have adequate cooling. This supposed bug in Starcraft II only exposes existing issues with the hardware of gamers computers. The same overheating issues would be exposed with any other game or program that stresses the system, and especially the GPU. A GPU with proper cooling should be able to handle 100% load for extended periods of time with no problems. Blizzard’s fix (below) is a setting users add to a configuration file to limit the frame rate in the areas of the game where there currently isn’t one. Since Starcraft II development period was so long and the public beta was so large, I would have expected this issue to have been found and fixed in the beta. This setting should have been enabled as a global setting in the game by default. For this I hold Blizzard accountable. There is no good reason that a gamer would disable vsync unless they are running benchmarks.

Blizzard support team has issued instructions for a temporary fix and says a more permanent fix is in the works.

A temporary workaround is to go to your Documents\StarCraft II Beta\variables.txt file and add these lines:
You may replace these numbers if you want to.

Other good practices to fix this problem and to avoid this issue in the future are the following:

Update your graphics drivers. Graphics manufactures are constantly improving their drivers, fixing issues with new games and improving performance. ATI for example has issued a beta version of drivers 10.7 that fixes a few specific issues with StarCraft II.
Make sure your computer’s insides are clean and have adequate airflow. For a desktop PC I recommend opening up the side of the case and using compressed air to blow out all the dust. Do this at least twice a year, if not more often. Take the computer outside to do this because it creates a mess and it gets rid of the dust so the computer does not suck it up again. Doing this can easily make your computer run several degrees cooler.
If you are overclocking or are running a very high end graphics card make sure you have more than adequate cooling. During these hot summer months the ambient temperature of many homes is at its highest, causing more stress to be placed on your computer hardware. Run temperature monitoring software if you continue to have problems or want to monitor your hardware before damage occurs.
I have seen no mention of a fix on the mac platform so right now we can assume this is a PC related problem.


Monkey Wrench Cycles Shop Review

Backstory: I bought a Specialized Hardrock bike 4 or 5 years ago and rode it quite a bit but stopped because the drivetrain was not working right. The bike had trouble shifting gears and staying in gear. The place I had bought it from in Lincoln got a chance to fix it twice and really did not do much but charge me to fix it.

Review: So deciding I wanted to bike again I pulled the bike out and found, it was likely (After some Google searches) that I needed a new freewheel because I could peddle put not put any power to the ground. After hearing good things about Monkey Wrench Cycles in downtown Lincoln I gave them a call. Monkey Wrench is a service oriented bike shop. While they will sell you a bike they specialize in repair of any problem, big or small. These guys know their stuff! They are racers and hard core bikers, not some college student who are their just to pay the bills. They were able to get my bike in and explained a possible estimate on the price from the problems I had described over the phone. So the next day I dropped it off and explained all the problems I had been having and was told it would be ready in 2 days.

Two days later I went to pick up the bike. The best part of the service was how they explained to me everything they did and why. Being a detail oriented person and mechanical I like to know why and how things work, so this was great. On my bike they put on the new freewheel, and then went to test drive the bike. The technician felt more vibration in the drivetrain and went on to further diagnose that my chain was way stretched. This was news to me as I had no idea chains stretch but after further explanation this is a very common problem. If you ride your bike for 30-40 minutes a couple times a week they recommend you change your chains every 3 to 4 months. Don’t worry they are cheap about $12. A stretched chain can cause your other drivetrain components to wear prematurely. After replacing the chain they adjusted my brakes. The design of my calipers is poor, and because of this a cap cracks, falls off which causes a critical spring to not function as designed. As a result most of the brakes only pull from one side cutting in ½ your stopping power and causing uneven wear. Since this is a design flaw the part is no longer made so the solution becomes modification of the part. The mounting bracket was taken off and drilled for a new cable run location. Now the brakes work great and pull from each side.

At the end of the day I am very impressed. These guys did quite a bit of work on my bike, they spent time doing great work and then checked their work by going out and putting a couple of miles on it. The bike is now better than it has ever been even brand new from the factory. The price was very reasonable too for the amount of work that was done.

If you live in Lincoln, Nebraska or surrounding areas I cannot recommend Monkey Wrench enough. A+ Local business! Check out their website blog and Google customer reviews as well for their address and phone number.

Monkey Wrench Cycles LLC
1225 P Street, Lincoln, NE 68508-1429
(402) 477-4104