Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kindle Fire HD 7", 16GB, with special offers

310: 5 O'clock
310: 5 O'clock (Photo credit: pvera)
Background: I have owned multiple copies of the first three generations of the Amazon Kindle, and the first generation of the $79 Kindle with offers. I have also owned three copies of the first generation Kindle Fire for about a year.
The good: Almost everything that was changed in the Kindle Fire was an improvement. The screen is much better, the battery life is much better, and the device is faster. The OS changed a tiny little bit, which is of no concern to users that haven't experienced the first generation. The speakers are a lot better. The wireless wakes up much faster.
If you put the device down it will go to sleep on its own unless you are playing video or audio. Pick it up and it wakes up again. The charging port is now on the side, which sucks if you want to prop it up in landscape mode with the official case. You can flip it of course, but then you lose the benefit of using the case as a prop stand.

The ads are not intrusive. You get an ad instead of a screen saver, and whatever is the active element in the carousel will attempt to display a row of related items for purchase on the bottom row of the screen. The favorites auto-hide to show the related items row.

Reading: Because the screen density is so much higher, it is more pleasant to read than the first generation device. I hated reading on the first Kindle Fire because it felt just like reading off my laptop's screen. With the second generation device it feels less like an LCD. If I was a reader and didn't care for the extra functionality, I would pick either the cheapest e-ink Kindle available, or the PaperWhite. I have read five books on the new device and I am very happy about the reading experience. PDFs depend a lot on the quality of the file itself, if the PDF is built properly then the fonts scale up very nicely regardless of how much you zoom.

Media: The wireless works a lot better whenever streaming video or audio. Video looks a lot better, but in landscape mode the controls are fixed on the right side of the screen, which sucks if you are a lefty. Except for that minor annoyance, it works perfectly.

314: Small
314: Small (Photo credit: pvera)
Case: I have the official leather case, which is basically a molded plastic bumper that protects the edges and back, and a soft-lined screen cover. Both sides of the case are lined in leather. The leather looks really damn nice.

The plastic bumper has the proper holes to allow the microphone, micro USB and video ports to work. It also has built-in buttons to activate the power and volume buttons. This is the only part of the case I am not 100% happy with, since it is hard as hell to distinguish these three buttons by touch. When you close the lid it puts the device to sleep, open it up and it wakes up immediately. The lid has a magnetic clasp.

The bad: not much. There is no longer a charging LED, so there is no way to know if the device is charged simply by plugging it in. There is no default camera application, and none of the apps I have found for free in the marketplace wants to work with it, except for Skype.

There is no AC charger, all you get is microUSB and a pitch to buy the fast charger (I did). If you buy it at the same time Amazon will give you a 50% discount, so it is only $10. I received one of those fast chargers as a warranty replacement for the dead charger on one of my first generation Kindle Fires, but I haven't tested it yet. So yes, I got two of those but haven't had the need to use them yet.

Except for what I outlined above, the experience between the old and new devices is pretty much identical.

Would I buy another one? Absolutely, Ivette actually wanted a PaperWhite until she saw this one. Now she decided that she would rather have a Fire HD. PJ is going to have to use his until he runs out of warranty coverage and/or uses up his three accidental damage insurance claims (2 still unused with a year to go on the coverage). If you have one of these devices you really need to buy that warranty extension just because of the built-in accidental damage coverage. I have had to return our Kindle Fires more than a few times, but only once due to accidental damage (shattered screen, covered at no extra cost to us), the others either had broken microUSB ports, or had a fried board.

Kindle Fire HD math:
As of right now, you can buy a Kindle Fire HD 7" 16GB, the leather case, a fast charger, and the two-year warranty extension AND two year accidental damage insurance (3 incidents) for $10 than what it costs to buy the cheapest iPad Mini.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Read "Pulling Strings" and all of my other books for FREE, November 12-16

Would you like to read my books but don't have Amazon Prime? From November 12 at 12 AM until November 16 at Midnight you will be able to grab all four of my books for FREE.

Amazon only allows this kind of promotion for five days every 90 days, so this is your last chance this year to grab them.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Is The Nikon D600 Priced Too High For Its Features? | Fstoppers

Is The Nikon D600 Priced Too High For Its Features? | Fstoppers:

Is The Nikon D600 Priced Too High For Its Features?
If there was one thing that people are unanimously saying about Nikon’s new D600 “budget” full frame camera, it’s that the price is entirely too high. No matter which blog you read, it seems everyone cannot believe the MSRP of $2,099.95. But are these claims valid? Does Nikon’s smallest full frame DSLR really lack the features that professionals desire? In the full post I’ll tell you why I just bought two of these cameras and why the price seems just right.
Not really. The damn thing is $1,000 cheaper than the D800, what else do you want? You are getting a strong, light body with a full frame sensor, a proper optical viewfinder, strong auto focus and internal auto focus motor. Basically they are selling you a stronger D7000 body with a full frame sensor inside. The price is right, especially if you take into account this is basically an entry-level professional camera, it is not a premium prosumer product.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Photographic Waffling

Sony NEX-C3 with Helios 44-2 2/58 M42
Sony NEX-C3 with Helios 44-2 2/58 M42 (Photo credit: pvera)
Or "Adventures in Gear Acquisition Syndrome."

As of a week ago, I started using what would be my fourth camera of the calendar year, fifth if you take into account the previous 12 months:

Sony DSC-HX9V - Bought somewhere in May 2011, a fantastic camera but lacking manual controls and it has a Sony G lens instead of a Carl Zeiss lens, which to me is the quality standard for Sony cameras. I still own this camera, but it is being "evaluated" and will probably find a happy new home really soon. If you want to shoot HD video, and you don't care about manual control over video, this is your camera. 

Nikon 1 J1 - Bought around December 27, 2011. This one I call the "expensive mistake." Too little, too early for too much money. Nikon really dropped the ball with this one, since Sony, Fuji and Canon all issued  Compact System Cameras (CSC) with APS-C sensors. Sold it at a loss but it funded my next camera ...

Sony DSC-HX100V - Bought somewhere in the first quarter of 2012. Imagine the innards of the Sony DSC-HX9V in a DSLR-like body, with a monster Carl Zeiss 30X zoom. This was one hell of a camera, but it had a fixed lens and eventually we parted ways. Taking into account depreciation, I think I broke even on this one when I sold it. And yes, it helped fund the next camera ...

Nikon D5100 - My first DSLR since the Nikon D50. This is one hell of a camera, but Nikon over-represented its video capabilities. The autofocus hunts like crazy during video shooting, which is infuriating. If you are a creative type, and you use manual focus, you can take cinema-like video with it. If on the other hand you want to take videos of your kid playing then you are basically screwed. I got this camera refurbished, extremely inexpensive and I still own it. I don't want to sell it unless it is to somebody I know that will enjoy it since it is almost about to be declared obsolete. This is the camera that got me bored about autofocus (what's the point if the camera does everything for you?) so I started shooting with legacy lenses. While hoarding lenses I realized that the Nikon had a terrible weak spot: it can't meter on non-CPU lenses, which means it can't do aperture priority. This means that you have to set aperture, shutter and ISO by hand or by using a light meter.

Screw that.

I also discovered that there was an insane amount of activity from people using CSCs with adapters and legacy lenses, especially with Sony NEX. This happened right in the middle of the Photokina rumors season, so I had to sit tight and wait to see what came out. The NEX-5R is an awesome camera, but I really don't need a touch screen, and the new auto focus pixels are going to waste if all I do is shoot manually. The NEX-6 and NEX-7 are still too far from my budget, so that left either the NEX-5N or maybe a NEX-3F.

Then I ran into a guy running what by all means was a fire sale on eBay and immediately bought his NEX-C3, which came bundled with a Pentax 50mm f2 lens. The cost? Less than if you subtract the current street value of the 18-55mm kit lens from either the NEX-C3 or the NEX-F3. And I had just sold my 35mm f.1.8 Nikkor DX, so out of pocket it cost me $200 to move on to this camera.

I also picked up adapters for my Minolta Rokkor primes, my two Soviet-era M42 thread lenses and a Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 I borrowed from a friend. It cost me $48 to adapt all of those lenses to work on the NEX-C3. And this is with full matrix metering and with aperture priority available!

I've been shooting it with the Pentax pretty much nonstop since it arrived, and I am really pleased. It is tiny, it is simple to use, and except for the shutter being so damn loud, it is perfect. Today I started shooting with my other lenses and everything works perfectly, even the Soviet lenses.

And I am exhausted from all of this camera switching. I think I need to put a moratorium on camera body buying until at least December 26, where if I am lucky I should be able to poach me some ungrateful rich people on eBay ditching their unwanted gifts. 

Test post

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Pork belly fatback salami kielbasa, pork flank ball tip sirloin. Flank ribeye tri-tip shankle venison fatback. Andouille tenderloin swine bresaola biltong ribeye sirloin. Frankfurter sirloin t-bone corned beef pork chicken strip steak meatloaf pig shank kielbasa bacon boudin andouille ham hock.
Pork ball tip shoulder turducken pork chop. Pig leberkas drumstick kielbasa, frankfurter tenderloin shoulder cow turkey ribeye beef ribs sirloin. Strip steak meatloaf meatball short loin sirloin chuck. Bresaola boudin ribeye jerky t-bone ham hock. Ham sirloin t-bone pancetta tenderloin swine salami pork loin pork short ribs drumstick corned beef pork belly strip steak beef.
Sausage chicken hamburger fatback beef drumstick ham andouille pastrami swine turducken jerky boudin. Ribeye shank short ribs beef ribs tenderloin kielbasa. Capicola meatball shank, pork loin pork belly tongue hamburger turducken pig beef. Strip steak ham hock tenderloin andouille turkey spare ribs. Shank cow frankfurter tongue beef andouille boudin jerky ham capicola short loin pastrami tri-tip.
Sausage pork chop pork belly ball tip. Beef ribs drumstick jerky, capicola pastrami pork jowl meatball ribeye. Tenderloin boudin pork chop ball tip tongue swine leberkas jowl ham turducken andouille prosciutto ribeye flank. Shoulder short loin sirloin pancetta. Swine pig meatloaf tail sausage cow frankfurter beef ribs pancetta strip steak filet mignon bresaola shoulder pastrami. Capicola pork chop tenderloin chuck hamburger ribeye sausage beef rump tri-tip leberkas t-bone andouille shoulder.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Operation "Gadget Lust" is On

All hear this: Operation "Gadget Lust" is in full effect. I am sacrificing my Nikon 1 J1 rig for the greater good (the greater good is defined as "Pedro wants another camera")

The auction is for $650 Buy It Now, starts at $499.95 and includes free shipping and insurance, it is at

 These images of the auction lot are not retouched, they have not been modified beyond simple cropping. I will gladly provide more pictures if requested.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The strange yet true case of the fast draining battery on two relatively new cell phones

The players:

  1. An LG Optimus V, Virgin Mobile (Sprint 3G), less than one year old. 
  2. An LG Optimus Slider, Virgin Mobile (Sprint 3G), less than one MONTH old.

The stage:

A Faraday Cage dwelling, which sits right on an overlap between two cell towers. Between this overlap and the metal in the walls, it screws with both cell traffic and WiFi.

The normal behavior:

The two cell phones work perfectly anywhere except at home. At home they work OK as long as you don't stand in the dead spot between the two cell signals. As a norm you can have anywhere from three to five bars depending on where you are standing. I can have 5 bars in my master bedroom and in my home office, some other areas of the house may get as low as three but still usable. There's only a couple dead spots in the house.

The problem:

Suddenly the two phones would drain their batteries with no use and within 8 hours, and we had close to no signal strength anywhere in the house. The phones would also get hot whenever plugged into the charger.

This only happens at home, as soon as we are on the road, we get full signal pretty much anywhere in North Virginia.

I tried to tweet Virgin Mobile, but the dumbasses were in flowchart mode and kept insisting that they needed to check my account, even if I kept explaining to them that the problem was that one of the two cell towers that hit my house was either dead or running in some kind of degraded service mode. Virgin Mobile is customer friendly like no other, but this insistence on following the fucking troubleshooting flowchart without using their heads was infuriating.

After a couple days, I noticed that the phones were once again getting all five bars, and they were not draining their batteries within 8 hours, so I imagine somebody with half a brain figured out what the hell was the deal with the tower.

Note to Virgin Mobile USA: If your customer tells you that the phone works perfectly anywhere else but at home, and the work WAS working at home until the last couple days, the problem is not the damn phone. Especially when the problem has been recreated with two different phones.