Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting the time right the Sony Ericsson way

Why are most of the appointments in my phone one hour early compared to my mac, I wondered? I recently bought the Sony Ericsson W760i, dropped it - not very hard! - and got a repair under guarantee. In other words, it is a somewhat delicate phone that should be treated with caution, but otherwise it works rather well. So why are my appointments one hour off?

It's the daylight savings time, stupid, I hear you say! You are correct, daylight savings time was not configured correctly. I had configured Time and date, of course, but the phone demands something really peculiar from you to get the time right when syncronizing. If you have a recent Sony Ericsson model, this may apply to you too:

When you configure Time and date (under Menu - Settings - General), you are asked to select your timezone. I selected GMT+1, which is my timezone. Correct? No, you need to read the manual, which tells you that "if you select a city, My time zone also updates the time when daylight saving time changes." Copenhagen is the right answer. I chose Copenhagen as my time zone, and my appointments are now synchronized correctly.

The moral lesson might be - as we used to say when I worked in IT - RTFM: Read the f**cking manual. In this case it turned out to be the solution, but most manuals are so lousy it won't work. I think the real lesson is that user interface design is a major factor in my life, whether I like it or not. In cases such as this one, the user interface on my phone is a major time sink. There is very little I can do about it, except complain in a blog post. So there! Hope this helps someone and that Sony Ericsson listens.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Government wants more Ph.D.s - why?

In the past few years, when somebody mentioned the lack of increased funding to the universities, you would always hear that the number of available Ph.D. grants was rising. However, nobody promised more tenure-track positions for the finished Ph.D. candidates. Somehow, I was lead to assume, an increased number of applicants for tenure-track positions would mean increased quality in the ranks of the fully employed. Competition always works that way, right?

Wrong. The increased number of finished Ph.D. candidates may very well lead to an increase in the number of and qualifications of the partially employed part-time lecturers, but it will not lead to an increase in the quality and output of research. Research being the standard the government usually refer to when it speaks about "world-class universities."

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published several articles commenting on this. However, in a Danish context, I haven't read a single comment. Where did all the Ph.D.s go? Please tell me!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Update: Microsoft doesn't care about photographers

I've been working with Microsoft Pro Photo Tools 1.0 for a couple of weeks now. It has consistently failed in living up to the most basic expectations one might have had from reading its name. Consequently, I suggest a name change to Microsoft No Photo Tools.

Is this another case of senseless Microsoft bashing? I don't think so. Yesterday, after editing the "date taken" of a batch of photographs (and prudently saving the photos) I wanted to exit No Photo Tools. The program told me that my files had been changed and offered me a chance to save them - again. I said 'yes.' Wouldn't you? No Photo Tools then proceeded to give each and every photo the same capture time, identical to the current time.

How could this be? Instead of checking the opened photos' capture time against the original photos' capture time, No Photo Tools appears to have checked the last change time. I had previously changed the capture date in each picture, so they all had a capture date different from their last change time. However, how No Photo Tools came upon the idea of changing the capture time to the current time is entirely beyond me.

Luckily, I had preserved the captured time in the file name. I always extract the photos from my D40 using Nikon Transfer 1.1. This excellent program can change file names from the generic 'DSC_9999.JPG' to the date and time the photo was taken.

I now faced the daunting task of manually editing the hour/minute/second taken of several hundred photographs. Of course, No Photo Tools has a feature allowing this. However, the feature is implemented so clumsily that it amounts to a time sink. For no apparent reason, the Microsoft programmer behind this mess has implemented the hour and minute as three digits each, only two of which are visible. Tabbing between the hour, minute, and second fields takes two clicks on the Tab key for each field, and then you have to select the three digits in each field, either by a double-click or Ctrl-A. Only then can you enter the correct information.

This miserable excuse for a tag editing program is barely an alpha version, let alone beta. Stay away from it. There are much better options out there in the open source community. For tag editing single photos, XnView is primitive, but entirely dependable. For geotagging, I recommend Geosetter. For renaming JPGs, I've used Amok Exif Sorter for some time. Finally, if you want to batch edit tags in hundreds of photos at a time, you won't regret getting Phil Harvey's ExifTool. Sure, learning how to use this command-line tool will take some time, but the time spent will save you many, many hours down the road. Oh, and ExifToolGUI by Bogdan Hrastnik takes the sting out of ExifTool by giving it a visual interface.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Microsoft cares about photographers!

It appears that the hulking giant has opened yet another front in the battle for the hearts and minds of computer users. They are trying hard to make Windows a natural choice for photographers. You may say they came a little late to the party, but I for one won't blame them for trying. Or maybe I should? - see update above!

Microsoft RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer for Windows XP. This thing is quick! Whoosh is the time it takes to create thumbnails of all the raw images (Nikon Electronic Format or NEF) in a folder. Did they have to add this in the readme: "We've taken care to ensure that this tool operates as it should, but it is not part of Windows and is not supported by Microsoft." Thank you, Microsoft!

But this is not all! Microsoft now has something called Microsoft Pro Photo Tools! They haven't quite finished playing around with it, but it can already add geotagging information to your photos and let you edit all your EXIF and IPTC metadata information. This is really cool!

Microsoft also has something called Microsoft Pro Photo Shoot. If you're a Pro in Microsoft's sense, you'll want to plan whether you're going to bring your Canon 5D for a shoot - or perhaps your Nikon D3 - and make a note of the decision made after hours of agonizing deliberation in Outlook. That's right: They think you're going to forget if you don't make a note in Outlook. Oh yeah!

Look out for more free goodies at Microsoft's Pro Photo Center. Made in Flash, by the way, not Silverlight. Another wise decision, I think.

Monday, June 16, 2008

havet.dk - a charter ship's homepage as blog

My sister and brother-in-law own and sail a brigantine for a living. The ship is called Havet - "The Sea" in Danish. I am their web master and I think it is a thrill to operate one of the coolest Danish domain names: havet.dk.

We had been talking for years about a major update of the old site. The old site was done in Frontpage the old-fashioned way: Table-based and not standards-compliant. I had been thinking about a new, XHTML/CSS-based design. Then a couple of weeks ago it struck me that it just had to be a blog. I decided to use the most recent version of Wordpress. It turned out that their webhosting solution didn't include PHP/MySQL so we had to upgrade. When the upgrade came through, the rest was a breeze.

I have done a little bit of customization to the template I've used. I think it was clever to add a category called 'skibslog' (the ship's log) and put a link to all entries in that category on the navigation bar. Now I can follow my sister and brother-in-law anywhere they go on Havet - and so can you, of course. In the second half of July, Havet and a motley crew of friends participate in the Danish tall ship race Fyn Rundt. I'll be on board with my son Oskar and some of our photographs will appear on the blog. I've also put some of my pictures from last year's Fyn Rundt online.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Keep buying XP

Although my Thinkpad is Vista Capable, I'm so happy to have stayed with XP. In the last month, I've advised a friend and my girlfriend about buying laptops, and I've told them both to stay away from Vista. After reading this blog item I'm no less happy with my XP experience. In coming months I'll upgrade the hardware in my stationary gaming machine and guess what - no way am I going to install Vista on that one either.

Which is sad, really. Not that I lament the apparent loosening of Microsoft's stranglehold on the desktop interface, but to think of all the hours I and others have spent learning to handle our current operating system and then think of how many hours we'll have to spend learning Apple OS X or Vista SP 2 if the latter is any good. A lot of that time will be wasted shortly after XP finally goes away by the end of June.

I have enough experience with *nixes to know how much time you can save if you have a truly multitasking, modular and tweakable OS at your disposal. GNU Emacs is available to anyone who wants to try that experience within a single program. Now if Microsoft was able to deliver something like that inside an XP-like exterior, that would be neat - much like Apple did with OS X, which is Unix under the hood. No wonder most of my tech-savvy American friends are buying Macbooks.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Counseling for DMFD students

My students at the ITU should still use Technorati to keep track of their course blogs, but unfortunately there is no way you can force Technorati to show your blog right away unless you chose to add your blog to your Technorati favorites. So go ahead, add the dmfd_f2007 tag and.... wait.