Thursday, August 26, 2010

Canon 60D Announced!

The Canon 60D has finally been announced. And it's a humdinger!

It has an articulated LCD!!! And a sensible one, too, not like the D5000's piece o' shit.

It has a slightly smaller, PLASTIC body (compared to the 40D/50D/7D). I prefer metal. I like metal. I lust for metal.

It has no AF micro-adjustment.

It has a 96% coverage viewfinder (compared to 95% in the 40D/50D and 100% in the 7D).

It does away with the joystick. (But it has a 4-way controller inset within the rear control wheel.)

It has no multi-flash support.

It uses SD cards instead of CF.

It has a slightly slower frame rate, 5.3 fps.

It has the same metering system and movie mode as the 7D.

It has the same sensor as the T2i. And the same 9-point AF system as the 40D. (Just as well -- I think the 7D's 19-point AF is too complicated.)

It's only slightly ($300) more expensive than the T2i, the top-end Rebel. In fact, think of the 60D as a Super Rebel.


I'm glad I didn't buy the 50D. The 7D is the natural upgrade path. The 60D is pretty much a dumbed-down 50D. Canon have repositioned the xxD line away from 'semi-pro' and toward the high-end consumer segment.

My guess is that the 60D will be more comfortable to hold than the Rebels, but not as comfortable as my 40D. Let's see if I'm right...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Halcyon Days

The Good Sex Network is the crowning achievement of my life. Second to that would be my IT career. I've had a long and successful career, working on some of the most exciting projects I could imagine...

Early in my career, I had the privilege of working on the world's first commercially available fault-tolerant mainframe, Tandem NonStop, in a first-of-its-kind trading system at the Toronto Stock Exchange. The development language, TAL, was a hybrid of C and Pascal (with a decidedly Pascal-like syntax). I had a blast during those days.

I also worked on the world's first attempt at a Unix-based office automation suite called Emerald One, including a word processor, spreadsheet, and remote dial-up facility. This was my first exposure to the C language which later became the mainstay of my career.

I helped to develop a remarkable "application generator" called Intellisys from a small start-up in Hamilton. This, too, was exciting because we were working with state-of-the-art hardware such as MicroVAX and large-screen GUI workstations.

Writing a TIFF fax decoder at Image Software Solutions, a very small start-up, was also a proud achievement. I was the only programmer in the company, so I was on my own with no help from anyone. If you've ever tried to decode TIFF (not the Toronto International Film Festival), you know it's a complex protocol.

My 7 years at ATI Technologies were the longest tenure of my career, a significant achievement in its own right. It was there that I finally learned how to drive (sort of). And working on Windows NT video drivers was exciting, too. I actually rewrote one from scratch! I also had a blast liaising with Microsoft in Redmond.

Alas, all of these software systems have been relegated to the dustbins of history, tossed onto the scrapheap of eternity. Such achievements have no lasting value, not like a successful book, song, movie, or historical recognition. Such achievements are like performance art, to be enjoyed in the moment, and afterwards forgotten.

Those were the halcyon days of my career. I sure miss them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Requiem for Smalltalk

http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

August Headline: Dinosaur Smalltalk falls off top 50

Smalltalk, the first pure object-oriented programming language ever, lost its position in the TIOBE top 50 this month. The same happened to the other well-known pure object-oriented language Eiffel a couple of months ago. This is probably part of the trend that languages are becoming more and more multiparadigm: both object-oriented and procedural with a functional flavor.

WHAT???

This is a frakking outrage!!! What is this world coming to?!!

Smalltalk is the closest to being the "perfect" programming language. It is simplicity itself. It is unbelievably flexible and versatile. The "IDE" is mature, sophisticated, and powerful, consisting of an object browser and a "live" debugger. It is a "productivity amplifier" without peer. And the code is remarkably compact.

The only knock against it is in the area of performance, but even there, you will find opportunities to optimize. With today's CPU and GPU hardware, performance will rarely be an issue.

I s'pose Ruby will take the crown as the ultimate OOP language, but it is not nearly as simple nor as easy to develop in as Smalltalk is. And you don't get that wonderful "live" debugger.

It's worth dredging up this old post:

http://richardeng2005.blogspot.com/2006/10/ode-to-smalltalk.html

Friday, August 13, 2010

Movie Review: The Expendables

Despite poor critical review, I rather enjoyed this movie. While the story is pretty standard action fare, the film does have some remarkable gems. And Stallone's direction is actually quite adept.

The Expendables stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, and David Zayas (Batista in Dexter). As if this weren't impressive enough a cast, there's also Randy Couture and Steve Austin (sports fighters), Terry Crews (NFL player), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), and uncredited Ahhnold and Bruce Willis in cameo roles. (Willis plays the man who hires The Expendables, and Ahhnold plays a mercenary competing for the same job.)

I like the name of Jet Li's character: Yin Yang.

Mickey Rourke plays a tattoo artist who has been working on Stallone's body art for ages. In an unexpected scene, Rourke's character, Tool, talks about his struggle to save whatever was left of his soul after having fought in Bosnia. This was an Oscar-calibre performance, people, make no mistake about it. And to find it in the middle of a Sylvester Stallone testosterone-fest is totally astonishing!

Another unexpected gem is the running joke about Jet Li's character being so short that he has to constantly fight to prove himself.

One fabulous action scene that I have to mention is when Stallone and Statham fly into enemy territory in a cargo sea plane, purportedly on behalf of the Global Wildlife Conservancy. When they are discovered, the army chases them to their plane, which takes off and eventually turns around to unleash a powerful counterattack, using onboard machine guns or cannons, and dropping incendiary liquid on the docks. Most imaginative! And most entertaining!

All in all, I have to recommend this movie. If you're in the mood for testosterone-driven action, you won't find anything better.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Movie Review: Yoji Yamada's Samurai Trilogy

I've just finished watching Yoji Yamada's Samurai Trilogy. I rented "The Twilight Samurai" and "Love and Honor" from Bay St. Video -- these movies cannot be found at Rogers nor Blockbuster. Nor HMV. ("The Hidden Blade" is the middle film.)

All three films are beautiful. All three make me weep.

As much as these are deeply profound stories of warriors and bushido, they also qualify as "chick flicks." Every film has a powerful love story that is sure to make women swoon.

Yamada's artistry is unsurpassed. The look and feel of the movies are absolutely authentic. It's like travelling back in history.

And performances are magnificent. Unforgettable. Haunting.

The trilogy is among my favourite films of all time, right up there with Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" and James McTeigue's "V for Vendetta."

My life is supremely richer for having seen these films. I can't recommend them enough.

I promise I shall devote 6 hours every year to watch the trilogy for the remainder of my life... (I can't say this about any other movie.)


The Twilight Samurai - A samurai, and lowly clerk, is ordered to kill a dishonoured samurai who refuses to commit hara-kiri. His sick wife died, and he has two young daughters and a senile mother to take care of. Thus, his colleagues have given him the nickname "Twilight."

The Hidden Blade - A samurai is ordered to kill one of his best friends who has escaped from the law. Unfortunately, his friend is a far better swordsman. He must also take revenge against a high-ranking official who raped his friend's wife.

Love and Honor - A samurai loses his sight tasting food for his Lordship and struggles to stay alive in a world that has no use for a blind samurai. When his wife is dishonoured and effectively raped by a high-ranking samurai official, he must engage in a duel to the death. He is resigned to his fate.


I have to confess, though, that The Hidden Blade is my favourite of the three.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The iPad and QuickTime Divorce

I just came back from the Apple Store, playing with the new iPhone 4 and the iPad. I have a major beef...

The iPad is supposed to be the ultimate multimedia consumption device. Putting aside the fact that the vast majority of videos on the Web are Flash-based, I would, at the very least, expect the iPad/iPhone to play QuickTime -- not just any ol' QuickTime movie, but QuickTime streaming over RTSP, as well. The iPad doesn't.

This is idiotic. QuickTime is Apple's own proprietary video standard. Why is it that I can play all QuickTime movies on a Mac but not on an iPad???

Suppose I were to set up a Mac server to stream QuickTime using Apple's own QuickTime Streaming Server. Then I would lose the vast iPad/iPhone user base. (No supposition is necessary -- I have actually done this.)

Do Apple plan to obsolete QTSS? (And, no, HTTP Live Streaming is not necessarily a suitable replacement/alternative. There are solid, practical reasons to prefer QTSS.)

What should website administrators who rely on QTSS, like myself, do? Shove an iPad up their ass?

So, in effect, the iPad cannot play Flash and it cannot play QuickTime. How is it the ultimate multimedia consumption device again?