Friday, October 24, 2008

Photo: Walking to Work

Here's the nicest part of my walk to work, a tree canopied sidewalk between Indiana Ave. and North St. near the Sigma Theta Tau Building (Honor Society of Nursing):
PhotobucketI'm also happy to report that despite some finger-numbing mornings and rapidly falling gas prices, I walked to work every day this week. I don't think I've done that since my Bike Life experiment over the summer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gear: LG Chocolate 3 Review

Despite my techie/gearhead leanings, I've always preferred to have a cell phone that was just a phone. No crazy internet access, no GPS navigation system, not even a camera (though I relented and my most recent phone had a camera). I just wanted something simple to stick in my pocket without a lot of crazy features. I didn't think that I needed -- or wanted to pay for -- any extra baggage.

The problem I've discovered after having gone through two 2-year contracts with phones at that level is that they're generally terrible phones. There's no money to be made on basic phones so cell phone manufacturers don't put any special engineering design or high quality batteries into them. Exhibit A: my most recent phone's battery wouldn't hold a charge worth more than 5 minutes of talk time with about 6 weeks to go on my contract. I happen to hate talking on the phone, so in certain cases this wasn't a bad thing! Still, more often it was very annoying.

When my Verizon contract was up in September and I was eligible for a "new every two" discount, I decided to skip the low end and at least look at the middle of the road phones where some solid design and components might be used. After looking around for a while, I honed in on the LG Chocolate 3 (VX-8560).
Things I liked from my research:
  • It's good as a phone. Several sites lauded good general phone capabilities. One even decided to start using this phone as its gold standard for comparison to other phones. General phone use is what I was always after, so big plus here.
  • Charged via USB. Notice the USB symbol on the bottom edge of the phone? The charger for the phone is actually an AC to USB port adapter. The phone comes with a USB cable and you can either plug it into the adapter or just plug it into a USB port on a computer. Cool idea.
  • Decent 2.0MP camera quality. My line has always been, "I don't need a camera on my cell phone, my regular camera works just fine." I have to admit, though, there are times when you're out somewhere and being able to grab something at least decent can be very useful (my previous phone's camera was horrid). It can also be very useful when you lose your regular camera.
  • 1GB capacity MP3 player built in. I've had an iPod for years but I've never had much use for it. When I'm at a computer (home, work, HTPC) I use Rhapsody to stream music from the internet and when I'm driving somewhere, I listen to CDs or the radio. Maybe having the MP3 player right on a device I'll always have in my pocket will change my use paradigm?
  • FM transmitter built in. I have an FM transmitter for the iPod but I've found it too klugey, too cumbersome and too poor sound quality to be of much use in the car, particularly when most of my downtown trips are 5 minutes or less -- it's really not worth the hassle of getting the transmitter running for trips that short. This one is built right into the phone and has a nice simple interface that might overcome the shortcomings over other solutions. However, for various reasons (mostly due to FCC limitations on their broadcast strength), FM transmitters are a flaky technology and I didn't hold out much hope that this one would be any better. If it worked, though, it would be a nice bonus.
  • Slim flip-phone design. Not exactly a feature that stands out anymore, but I've had chunky/clunky cell phones for so long that changing to a slim design would be nice.
SOLD! I purchased this cell phone about a month ago and I have to say that I love it. Some things are less than perfect, but overall it's an extremely solid phone. Obviously, as you've seen around here, the camera is at least passable. The MP3 player is a nice addition to the basic slim design and the FM transmitter is about as good as can be expected. I'm not sure the music package is going to change the way I listen to music in the car -- even the relatively simple interface for initiating FM transmission is a little too much work for a quick car trip (you also have to turn it back off when you're done) -- but I've found the external speaker useful in certain places where I wanted some background music and had no other sources and the FM transmitter has worked well on some longer car trips.

One feature that I'm a little unhappy about is the USB charging. I was under the impression that the USB cable was a standard USB --> mini USB cable similar to the kind found on most cameras. Turns out LG used a proprietary mini connector on the phone end, so I'll have to buy an extra cable to stash at work for an emergency charge instead of being able to use the USB --> mini USB cables I've got sitting around everywhere. It's not a big deal since it still charges from any USB port, but it would have been nice if they had used an existing standard on the phone side. Otherwise, job well done LG!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Photos: Cosmopolitan on the Canal Update

If you stumbled upon this post looking for information about the Cosmopolitan fire on March 12, 2009, information and photos can be found here and here.

Another shot taken from my cell phone. Apologies about the quality on this one. It might be a little tough to make out but there some spindly steel frames along the canal level. Click on the photo for a larger version that helps to show them. They've actually been up for a while but I haven't had a chance to go take a picture.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gear: The Camera Buying Decision

It's been almost two weeks since I last saw my camera. I've been holding out hope that I would open a drawer or move a pile of things and find it sitting there. My hope is quickly fading -- at this point, it's probably gone forever.

On the one hand, it sucks that I lost a camera that I was accustomed to using and it further sucks that I have to spend money to buy a replacement. But, on the other hand, that camera wasn't perfect and this provides an opportunity to evaluate exactly what I liked and disliked about that camera so I can get something a little better this time. As a way of gathering my thoughts, I'm going to bullet point the pros and cons of my camera. For reference, this is the camera I had, a 2.5 year old Canon A75 (anybody seen a slightly beat up one of these around?).

  • Four AA battery compartment makes a nice grip
  • Four AA batteries provides long life between charges
  • Manual controls available at a level between point-and-shoot and high-end SLR
  • 3.2 mega pixels was fine for my purposes
  • Has optical viewfinder (useful in bright outdoor situations when you can't see the screen)
  • Tiny viewscreen (by today's standards)
  • Four AA batteries is too heavy
  • Four AA battery compartment makes grip that's a little tough to slip into your pocket
  • Shutter delay can be incredibly long, particularly in low light
  • Compact Flash not as popular anymore? (not a dead format, but it seems to be getting phased out in favor of smaller formats)
Anybody have any advice about features I should be considering on newer cameras (or features that are not worth paying for) or any stores around town that might be good for information gathering?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

ABC News Live in Indy

When Charlie Gibson shows up in Indy and wants to shoot World News live one block from where you live, you go check it out, right? You're damn right I did!

To give you a little background, ABC News has been shooting on location in Presidential battleground states this week. Rather unexpectedly, Indiana is in play this year so ABC decided to stop in Indianapolis on Wednesday while Barrack Obama was in town for a rally at the State Fairgrounds. They set up to shoot World News from the St. Clair bridge over the canal and shut down the street for a couple hours this afternoon. Here's what the bridge looked like when I stopped by after work and ABC was setting up for the news:


Later, after checking out what the Indianapolis scenery looked like on the ABC broadcast, I went back out to watch Charlie Gibson in person:


A small crowd of people had also gathered to watch the action (I was actually surprised how small the crowd was):


After Gibson was done with the news and had recorded dozens of lead-ins for commercials on the west coast, he came over to shake hands and talk with people:


Aside: I still haven't found my camera so these pictures were taken with the camera on my new cell phone (I might write a post about that at some point). It takes pretty decent outdoor shots, so I may try to take some pictures of projects using that camera until I figure out what camera to buy. The main drawback is a lack of image stabilization, as you can see in the last shot of Charlie Gibson.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sorry for No Content

Apologies about the lack of posts around here. On top of little time to take pictures recently, I also misplaced my camera over the weekend. Until I resolve that -- either by finding it or buying a new one -- there probably won't be much, if any, content here. Of course, if I do have to buy a new one, that would at least be fodder for a Gear post (albeit very expensive fodder).