Saturday, July 30, 2011

Infocomm Accessibility Centre Tweet Meet 2011

In a few hours I shall be making my way to a home to witness two volunteers present a person with disabilities (PWD) with a netbook, and help set up his social presence on Facebook and Twitter. I really have no idea what else to expect out of the session, which makes it all the more interesting.

The idea is for PWDs to get over their social awkwardness born out of their self-consciousness over their disabilities through the now notorious mask of the Web. Through a higher volume of communication, perhaps they will feel a little less alone in this world and earn themselves a new group of friends as unique as themselves. You wouldn't be the most cheerful person in the world if you were devoid of sight, sound or the ability to move freely, but one hopes that technology can change that.

Watch the Wall on their Facebook page, or keep an eye on #tweetmeetsg over the weekend as volunteers move out around the island to rekindle lives with technology!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

BlackBerry Playbook: iPad nightmare but for one thing...

Well not long ago Hisham dragged me along with... actually the whole of Tech65's local team to attend the BlackBerry Playbook preview, innovatively situated in a limo bus that I assume traveled around the island during the day to the various major publishing houses.

If you haven't already seen other reviews around (thank you, I'm honored), you should know that with a combination of a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, and the BlackBerry Tablet OS based on QNX architecture, this device has proven itself to be faster than the benchmark iPad (it's far from ceteris paribus, but that's pretty much the long and short I'd give). Games run smoothly, videos run smoothly even when running out via HDMI at 1080p, the audio plays like a dream, and there is full Flash support. And all this happening simultaneously. It creates one hell of a racket, but it's technically very impressive.

Assuming you own a BlackBerry, the Playbook very smoothly becomes one with it (not that I would expect anything less). Whatever security your company dictates, your BB phone will follow, and consequently, so will your Playbook. After work, when you're chillaxing on the sofa with a glass of wine, you can hook up to your home's WiFi network, and the only restrictions are those of the World Wide Web (and well, the MDA's).

The problem is, without the BlackBerry Bridge program to link your phone and tablet together, the Playbook runs without local mail, calendar or address book apps.

Dun dun dun.

Now obviously it's a very questionable and arguably crazy thing to do, and I am of course puzzled by it, but here's my point of view from from the perspective that, now at least, I am far more interested in the tablet than I ever will be with the phones. And with that in mind, I will be getting the Playbook as more of an entertainment device than something to augment my working life (play > book).

To take the other major players in the smartphone business into consideration - Apple, Android and Windows Phone 7 - people who get the Playbook with the same motivations as me would have one of these phones in their pocket. And if they did, chances are that their mail, calendar and address book wouldn't be too far away from them. And if you're the type to check your webmail (or web calendar), well there you have it. It's part of the Web, which the Playbook renders flawlessly. You're probably going to be further away from your phone at home than you are on-the-move anyway.

Which I suppose means that the non-BB buyers will wait for the 3G version, whenever that may reach our shores.

Because being the ultimate cloud warrior isn't any use when you can't connect to the Web. I'm absolutely fine with checking my Gmail and GCal (and whatever the G Address Book is called, if it exists - I'm a lousy geek that way) through the web browser, but one simply cannot rely on WiFi or phone tethering all the time, it's quite a bother to set up each time, and if you just quickly need to do access that one mail to extract the meeting place of your next appointment, you wouldn't activate your hotspot just to use your Playbook's beautiful 7" hi-resolution screen to do that, you would just check it on your smartphone and be done in 15 seconds.

Would I get the Playbook? I'll probably get the iPad in the end, simply because I have an iPhone with so many apps that can be reused or look even better on the iPad. But the Playbook holds the modest distinction of being the only tablet device that made me stop and stare.

Learn more about the Playbook here.
The rest of my pictures from the event can be found here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lowepro Passport Sling - The Traveller's Doraemon Pocket

Meet my new friend, the Lowepro Passport Sling. It's my friend, because it makes my life easier. Anyone who makes my life easier is my friend. The only exception will be my wife, who ever this blessed lady will be.

But what if I was a conniving turncoat? What if I was jealous of my friend's ability to make my life easier, and spilled its guts with this cute little rusty penknife?

Police will rush to the scene of the murder to find split from its stomach, the following items:

  1. Canon 7D with 18-135mm kit lens mounted
  2. Canon 350D body with battery grip
  3. Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash
  4. Lowepro filter pouch
  5. Large blower
  6. Flash diffuser cap
  7. Cleaning cloth
  8. Lens pen
  9. CF card
9 items, in a camera sling bag little larger than (and looking quite like) a bagpipe. And that's with the restricting zip approximately 3/4 zipped up. The full capacity of the bag could probably contain another large telephoto lens.

As my friend succinctly put it, it was a rare product that looked good whether it contained 1 item or 10. Reviews have also asserted its superior stitching, durability and water resistance. And if you think that this Doraemon's Pocket would naturally cost a bomb for its innovative size-space ratio, then you will be very pleased to note that it retails in Singapore at all major camera stores for $55-58. Surely an ideal 1-system mobile solution for both amateur and seasoned photographers.

Go get it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Shutter Journey

With an hour left to go as I'm writing this, today, the 1st of March, is my beloved Shutter Journey's 1 year anniversary.

10 months ago, I joined with Nicole's invitation what SJS founder Allan commented was one of the more challenging shoots to date. I was carrying a G11 which, very brilliantly I say, ran out of battery halfway. Still, I got some decent shots.

The first lesson I learnt in SJS was that your camera system did not matter. There were people who came to shoots with compact cameras, with handphone cameras and even with film-based toy cameras that didn't even give you an accurate view of what you were shooting (oh the horror).

But photography comes from the heart, as do all the arts on our good green(ish) Earth. When you have an idea of what your photography stands for, what it wishes to communicate, the story it wants to tell, then you may regret all you want that you didn't have your 1D, D3, a900 or S2 to capture that brilliant moment, but you will never need to regret that you did not capture the shot in the best possible way.

The second thing I learnt is that going for shoot after shoot after shoot has given my skills a chance to grow naturally, regardless of camera system. It's quite like how a pure diamond-crafted sword honed once a week will never be as sharp as a simple iron sword that is sharpened daily. Many images are not done justice to not because the photographer is bad, but because of the great barrier formed by electronic technicalities, ranging anywhere from "Why this white balance setting here?" to "Why use spot metering and not partial metering here?" I still don't know the latter, by the way.

I however, for one, don't see lessons in photography as the often-marketed "Crash Course to ABC". Instead these things just get some necessary technicalities out of the way (ISO, WB, metering, focal point, contrast, purposeful over/underexposure, I could go on) to free our eyes and minds to wander across the wonders of our environment. Only when we aren't preoccupied with the million settings on our cameras can we focus on what is a shutter-worthy frame. Because on the other hand, what good is a perfectly exposed photograph containing an utterly boring subject?

The last major thing I learnt is of course that there is no such thing as "aiyah buy one camera enough already. Kit lens is enough."

L i e s.

Naw I kid, although every word of that was true. The last thing I learnt was that quite simply, we aim to enjoy every shoot because we share and learn more that way. I'd like to see you try to get a lesson on f16 vs f20 out of a hungry, grumpy photographer who just missed his magical sunset minute after camping at the best spot for miles since after lunch.

I still have to thank the founders and moderators for giving me a chance to be part of the core team. Over the past couple of months I have learnt alot from every one of you, and I have to say, we form quite a tight group (Whatsapp group chat positively superglued us together).

With much thanks to Alvin even though I kinda didn't actually ask first, and much love to the missing mods Ruiping and Cass. You know I love you still. As a friend. A good friend. But just a friend.

For believing in my ability to contribute to this passionate group of carefree photographers, thank you Allan, Ling, Celes, Shela, Noel and Connie.

Happy birthday SJS. Live long and prosper.