Market may fall bellow 5,200 !!!

It is interesting how the experts change their minds. At the start of the year there was all this ‘positive’ vibe going on about how the stock market was going to crash through the 6,000 point barrier by the end of the year as it clawed its way back to 6,800 where it was before the GFC hit back in 2007/2008.

Now the ‘experts’ are saying that the market could fall below 5,200 in October due to the financial woes currently being experienced by Australia at both the federal and state levels. In fact there is one theme from the experts during September claiming that a third of the listed companies are teetering on the end of financial failure.

There is also the Reserve Bank’s well reported concerns that the real estate market is overheated and telling banks to tighten up lending policy. The Reserve is signalling that the next interest rate move has to be upwards and that this is likely early in the new year.

And now there is this concern that the top 200 companies in Australia only pay about 10 percent in tax, when the corporate rate is supposed to be 31 percent from the first dollar of profit. But these companies have all kinds of tricks and moves that allow them to play with the profit reported or deductions applied that then brings their effect tax rate down to 10 percent.

Some corporations are managing to pay just 3 to 5 percent tax.

While companies in Australia are making bigger profits than ever they are paying less adjusted tax than they were paying ten years ago!

I pay 35 percent tax of every dollar I earn. How can this be fair?

BarryMark

Incandescent to CFDs to LEDs … but will the power bill come down?

There was a time not so long ago when just about every light in a house was an incandescent bulb. An incandescent bulb that drew 75 watts of power to put out about 630 lumens of light.

Then the CFDs (compact fluorescent discharge) became popular and affordable around 2000. CFDs vary a lot but on average a CFD that draws about 18 watts of power puts out about 600 to 620 lumens of light. So CFDs used about a quarter of the power and produced about the same amount of actual light. Also, in theory, CFDs lasted about five times longer than the ‘average’ incandescent bulb although I never found this to be true. My experience is that CFDs did not last as long incandescent bulbs.

Another problem with CFDs was that—being powered by fluorescent discharge—they flickered. They flickered really fast and 95 percent of people could not even notice it, but people sensitive to light flicker could pick up this very fast flickering.

The other thing some people did not like about CFDs was that they needed to warm up before they put out their full brightness. As they got better and better the warm up time got less and less, but even the latest of CFDs still have a little warm up time required.

But now we have the modern LED lights where with just 9 watts of power they put out 650 lumens (depending on the actually LED unit being used). Also they are instant on with full brightness. When these first started arriving on the market about five years ago they were $100+ per ‘bulb’ but now they are down to about $10 per bulb making them generally affordable. Also, from what I have read, the LED bulbs actually do have a long life of up to around 15,000 burn hours. So if they were used for eight hours a day for every day of the week you should easily get five years out of them.

So compared to the incandescent bulb in the mid-90s that drew 75 watts to produce 630 lumens of light we now have LED ‘bulbs’ that draw 9 watts to give out 650 lumens. This is about a tenth of the power consumed to provide the same light.

Over the last few months I have gradually changed all the long-use lights in my house over to LED. This spreads the $10 per light cost out over a more manageable period.

Now to watch my power bills plummet. Well that’s the plan anyway.

BarryMark

Misty afternoon pictures of Kalamunda

I went out this afternoon and took some misty ‘up in the clouds’ pictures of Kalamunda. After all the Pentax K-3 is supposed to be water proof so the very fine drizzle ‘should’ not affect it. Unfortunately I am not water proof and I did get a little damp, but such is the life of a dedicated photographer.

Kalamunda is up in the hills to the east of Perth and when the clouds are low they sort of skim over the village as they pass over the hills.

These pictures were taken at 3:00 p.m.

The first was taking partially along the path that weaves its way through the park. This shot was taken so that the rubbish bins on the left and the life-sized chess game board on the right were not in the frame.

I like the almost solid black look of the tree trunks on those trees on the left. This is obviously helped by the fact that they are damp which is making them look more black than they probably normally do.

StirkPark01-650x

This next shot is from the entrance to Stirk Park but looking up towards the village. You can get a better feeling for the misty low hanging clouds in this shot. Notice also the water flowing from the gumnut centre-piece in the traffic round-a-bout.

KalamundaNuts-Large-650x

StirkPark01-Small-650yThis final shot is another one taken in Stirk Park. While it is primarily of the tree in the foreground with the lichen growing on it, I was also trying to pick up the deciduous poplar trees in the background o the left—at least I think that’s what they are called.

All of these pictures were taken at 800 ISO and they were not post processed for digital noise.

As usual each picture links to a much larger and higher resolution version in SmugMug.

It continues to amaze me how good digital cameras and lenses have become and I only have a half-frame camera with a pretty average lens.

BarryMark

End of the compact camera—good for the half-frame market?

It was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time. I notice that a number of camera sites, including the well respected DP Review site, are now writing about the end of the compact camera.

I have done a couple of posts in the past about how camera phones were gradually taking over the market space of the compact camera. I posted “Compact camera sales are plummeting” (here) and “Is this the end of the compact camera” (here).

Well it seems like mid-2014 will be written into the annals as the official death of the compact camera. The big camera manufacturers are all cutting back on their compact camera ranges and there have been no significant new model releases in twelve months.

Camera technology advances in mobile phone cameras like the amazing Nokia 1020 PureView, theNokia 930 PureView, the Samsung S5, the LG G3, the Samsung K-zoom (the only mobile phone with an optical zoom lens camera built in), and possibly the new Apple iPhone 6 Plus—although we are yet to see if this camera is a good as the Apple hype.

So what do camera manufacturers do when a whole camera sales market segment dies?

They shift their focus to areas where the serious takers of pictures will still spend extra money to take better photographs—the half-frame market.

My prediction is that we will start to see more innovation and a lowering of prices in the half-frame/APS-C market segment as Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Ricoh/Pentax, Olympus, and others try to chisel of more of this market for themselves to offset the loss of sales in the compact market.

BarryMark

To zoom or not to zoom—the ‘fixed length’ conundrum

This is an age old problem for photographers. Whether to use a zoom lens or a fixed length lens.

With a zoom lens you get the flexibility of being able to easily change the focal length of the lens with a twist of the zoom collar, or for slide zooms by sliding the barrel.

With a fixed length lens you are stuck with the focal length of the lens. The only way of ‘zooming’ in or out is to either change where you are taking the picture from or change lenses.

The problem being that—for any given price bracket—fixed length lenses almost always have the better resolution/image quality.

Just to give you some idea of the ‘average’ difference between a mid-range zoom and a mid-range fixed length lens, in the picture below the test shot on the left is from an 18 – 135 zoom at the 85mm length taken at f8. The shot on right is from a fixed length 85mm lens also at f8.

LensCompare

Now for most folk the difference is nothing they would be concerned about, but for us ‘serious’ takers of pictures with actual cameras (as opposed to a camera phone) the above has been the basis of many millions of hours of discussions over the years.

A mid-range 18 –135mm zoom lens is about $600 and a decent 85mm fixed length lens is about $500. But with the zoom you get to use any focal length from 18mm through to 135mm. It’s like having four or five or more lens but they are all in the one and you don’t have to keep changing lenses to change focal length. So is that worth the loss in image quality? This is the question?

In the ‘old’ days there was no choice. All lenses were fixed length. You had to change lenses to change focal length. This was probably why the interchangeable lens camera was originally invented.

Then along came useful zoom lenses in the early 1960s, and with these first zooms there was still really no choice. If you wanted crisp pictures you had to use fixed length lenses because early zooms were about ten times worse than the example shown above. Back then serious photographers did not even consider using zoom lenses, except maybe for playing around and seeing just how bad the pictures were that they took were.

But with computer designs, modern lens manufacturing, and precision assembly that we have today the zooms are much better. However, price-range for price-range, there is still a difference in image quality. Enough of a difference for really serious professional photographers making their living from taking pictures to stick with fixed length lenses.

Five or six years ago the saying used to be something like “you can’t fix up bad image quality in Photoshop”. But this is not totally true today.

I promise you that the following picture is the same picture as above but I have used Photoshop Elements to firstly apply 10:10 demisting sharpen and then 30 percent of 1.8 pixel sharpening ONLY to the left hand panel. Nothing has been done to the right panel.

LensComparePSEversion

Now the zoom lens shot on the left isn’t looking too shabby.

So maybe now, in 2014, there really is no reason to fear the image quality of zooms; certainly not higher end zooms anyway. Although it does mean you need to do some photo-finishing in something like Photoshop Elements but I would expect all serious amateur takers of pictures are doing this anyway.

BarryMark

Cats still hear as they sleep almost as if they were awake

Whereas a dog’s sense of smell is almost fully functional while they sleep, a cat’s hearing is working almost at full functionality while they sleep; especially for higher frequency sounds. Cat’s also have the ability, as far we know (without being able to actually ask them), to filter sounds they don’t care about. Sounds like the dishwasher going or people talking.

But if something gets through the filter they are awake in an instant. Once they determine that nothing is amiss they go back to sleep within seconds. Don’t you wish you could do that?

While they are sleeping they rely almost totally on their hearing to keep them alive should something go wrong in the ‘outside’ world, and their ability to go from sleep to instant action.

Here is a shot of Sansa sleeping. Notice the ears turned forward to pick up the slightest unexpected sounds as she sleeps.

IMGP0744-SansaAlertSleeping-650

Apparently they can also detect movement on their whiskers while asleep but I have touched Sansa’s whiskers when she is sleeping and nothing happened. Maybe her whisker sensing mechanism is faulty.

Sadly for us humans our sense of smell almost totally shuts down while we sleep and our hearing drops to about 20 percent; even less in deep sleep.

BarryMark

The two biggest issues with Chrome

According to the latest statistics Google’s Chrome browser is now used more than any other browser, including all versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

This is pretty amazing when you consider that, by and large, all corporates users use Internet Explorer almost exclusively. This is mainly due to the ability of IT departments to manage and control the usage of Internet Explorer in a managed corporate environment.

If you look at the numbers without the corporate users included then Chrome is far and away the most used browser with an estimated 60 percent of users using it. The next nearest is FireFox with 24 percent.

Amazingly, Apple’s Safari browser is down to just 3.7 percent even though it is pre-installed on all Apple computers.

I have two problems with Chrome.

The first is that, unlike almost every other application that you will use on Windows, Chrome does not use the inbuilt Windows font smoothing and aliasing technology. I have no idea why the developers of Chrome do this. This means when you use it on Windows the font rendering in Chrome looks kind of thinner and more grey.

Following is an example. The first clip is from Chrome. The second is from Internet Explorer.

FacebookRendering

IERendering

It might be a little subtle to people not tuned into looking at fonts, but notice how the text in the Chrome clip tends more to grey and is thinner (less solid) than the text in the second clip from Internet Explorer?

The second thing that bugs me is the you cannot set Chrome so that when you open a link in a new tab the new tab is opened in the foreground. So if you right-click a link and select “Open link in new tab” the new tab goes to the background. Ditto if you Ctrl+Click a link. It opens in the background.

Other browsers such as Internet Explorer, Opera, and FireFox allow you to set them such that when you open in a new tab the tab opens in the foreground.

Before all the Chrome users jump on an tell me that if I do Shift+Ctrl+Click then the link will open in the foreground, I already know that. But I want to set Chrome such that any link I open in a new tab comes to the foreground.

BarryMark

I have been posting for five years

While doing the previous post, which got me looking at dates, I realised that last month I passed the five year mark in maintaining this site.

Yep. I have been posting for five years. Well, five years and one month to be precise.

I have never achieved anywhere near the number of visitors that I originally thought I might. When I started I thought I might get up to around 5,000 or so regular visitors. That seemed achievable. After all there are something like 2.5 billion people surfing around the Internet. All I was hoping to get was about 0.0002 percent of those.

At the peak, which only happened a small number of times, I managed 500.

Another thing is the lack of comments. People generally don’t seem to like to comment.

I have not done a check back but I estimate that probably only about two or three percent of posts have a comment.

Looking back I am reasonably happy with the variety and content of most of the posts I have done.

I sort of started this blog with the aim of mostly posting photographs I was going to take, and there has been a bit of this. There have been the pictures of Seriously Cute Niece (SCN; features in 27 tagged posts) and various ‘rustic’ themed picture I have posted. But overall only 2.7 percent of my posts have been tagged as photographic posts and I was probably expecting, back in the beginning, for about a quarter of posts to be photography posts.

As it turned out the largest tagged grouping is “tech/computers” which comes out at about 3 percent.

If the gods are kind and I live that long, maybe I will make it to August next year and then I can tell you I have been posting for six years.

BarryMark

Top 10 for first week of September, 2014

It is always interesting to check which posts people are looking at. Following are the Top 10 for the first week of this month.

Top10Sept1stWeek

First: The first one is the main page so it is not surprising this is at the top. This is where everybody ends up when then just go to abalook.com.

JWL-SmallSecond: The next one “Titbit: Hunger Games ‘Amazing’” (here) is from March 2012 and is about the reviews that the movie was getting in America.

At the time I had not seen it myself.

This post features some pictures from then of Jennifer Lawrence.

Third: Third in the list “Some Christmas presents just take a little more work” (here) is from December 2012 and is a posting about a pair of high heels my son got for his then girlfriend (now fiancé).

These high heels took some work. They are custom painted with an R2D2 theme. He had to find a suitable pair to have painted, and then get them to the person was going to paint them, and get them done and back in time for Christmas.

R2D2-ChristmasHeels

Fourth: Next in the list is from March 2012: “Country girls wear shorter shorts” (here).

ShortShortsBlueEven though it is two years ago I remember this. I was getting my usual stores of sustaining alcohol from the Liquorland in the country town where I work away, and walking back to my car I spotted this vision in eye-catching pale pink shorts in the Subway store off to my right.

From memory I started keying that post almost as soon as I got back to the motel unit; well that would be after having a couple of glasses of life enriching and sustaining red wine.

The picture used in the posting to illustrate the concept of ‘short shorts’ (a reduced version shown at left) was obviously NOT of the girl I saw. I just Googled the Web for ‘short shorts’ and picked a picture.

Also the shorts I saw being worn by the black-haired babe in Subway were NOT as short as this.

It was one of those times you wished you had a camera around your neck, or maybe had a pair of Google Glass; so you could capture that stunning view forever.

AdrianneSmall-RepostFifth: Sitting in the number five slot is “Adrianne Palicki Chosen to Play Wonder Woman” (here).

Regular readers will know that this posting has always been in the Top 10; almost since I posted it way back in February 2011. In fact I am pretty sure that if I was to do a count back I would find that this posting would be in the Top 5 most popular ever postings.

Interestingly, as popular as it it, it has zero comments attached.

There must obviously be a lot of Adrianne Palicki fans out there for this posting to have maintained its position in the Top 10 for so long.

Observation: In the interests of “Keep the posts short”, I won’t go on and bore you further with notes and comments about the other five in the Top 10; but there is one observation that I have made.

All the ongoing popular posts were done in 2012 or earlier.

BarryMark

980 mins Twin Peaks TV = 300 mins Northwest Passage movie

I heard and read about this a number of times here and there but had not really taken much notice of it.

Faneditors are folk that like a TV series or film so much that they decide to do their own ‘edit’ of it. In the case of the faneditor named Q2 and the TV series Twin Peaks, what he (or she) has done is take 980 minutes of the two seasons of Twin Peaks and edit that down to a 300 minute (five hour) movie. The resulting movie has been called Northwest Passage; which Twin Peaks fans will know was one of the original names for the Twin Peaks series.

As part of the work done, while editing over 16 hours of television down to five hours Q2 also did a pan-and-scan conversion over to the 16:9 aspect ratio at 720p (Enhanced Definition).

So what was lost in the 11 plus hours of running time that was dropped?

Reading up on Q2’s thinking the plan was to only keep scenes related to the main arc of Twin Peaks, which is the murder of Laura Palmer and who killed her. Sticking to this plan then allowed for over 11 hours of run time to be dropped; much of it from season two.

I am currently trying to download a complete copy of Northwest Passage. If I manage to achieve this then I will obviously watch it and I will publish a short review.

Q2Fanedit

Click on the image above to see a 1.5 minute teaser trailer for Northwest Passage.

BarryMark