Welcome to 2011 everybody. It’s been a couple weeks since posting, mostly due to a bad case of the social life, new job, and UMSwing prep. More updates on that later.
In the mean time, I have some photos from my new years party that I went to with a couple friends. I had a great time, met some new people, and took a few decent shots. All the best in 2011!
In a moment of stupidity, I had an energy drink at 11:30pm last night while at a friend’s party. Needless to say, at 3:03am the following morning (ie. today), I am unfortunately still awake. I guess I got what was coming to me.
On the plus side, that now means that I had the time to go through some of my photos that I’ve taken since the last photo update, pick out a few of the decent ones, and prep them to go up on time today. I have some photos from the last blues class at UMSwing, our year-end potluck, and my friend’s potluck that I attended last night (or was it today? I guess I left after midnight…).
I added the ability to vote on specific photos and a gallery as a whole now, so when you view an image that you like (I hope there’s at least one or two!), you can give it a good rating . Of course, comments on the album are always welcome.
Without further ado and without further caffeine-induced ramblings, here’s the photos!
I got to try out my friend’s Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which was a dream to shoot with (albeit a bit heavy). I got a few decent shots and I started playing along with longer shutter speeds for a bit of deliberate blur.
Well, these are overdue to go up. Last month one of my friends participated in Chillin’ for Charity, which is put on by the business students on campus. I got a few good shots from it, so here’s a small selection.
Update: After talking with some people, I realized that all of this was worded pretty harshly. It was intended only to be a request for what I wanted people to do when they use my photos. My apologies to everybody.
Recently, I’ve noticed on more than one occasion people using my photos for their profile pictures on various social media websites. I think that’s great; it’s good publicity for myself and it shows that the photos are liked. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the growing trend of some photos getting cropped, removing the URL from the image. Most of the time this is unintentional. If this happens, don’t worry; just give me credit in the photo description.
Here’s my requests for my photo use:
- Feel free to use the photos on any social website, provided that you give me credit. This can be either by:
- Leaving the original URL watermark in tact, or
- Giving credit in the description or caption, using both my name and website URL
- Unless I give specific permission, I would not like my photos used for derivative works. Chances are just asking will result in a “yes”; I simply want to know where my photos are being used.
I believe that credit should be given where it’s due (not to mention that it’s a copyright violation). If you want to use my photos, just give me credit. Hopefully I won’t have to put watermarks in more obstructive locations in the future.
Hopefully that clears things up a bit. Again, for those that read this before the update, sorry about how harsh it came across. I guess that’s what Mondays do to me.
I just bought a battery grip for my Canon Rebel XTi a few weeks ago, and so far, I absolutely love it. It’s a great addition considering how little I paid for it.
Those of you now looking at the price of said battery grip on your favorite photography website will probably see a price around $250 – not exactly a cheap investment for the photographer on a budget. Thankfully, if you’re cheap like me, you can find 3rd party brands on bargain sites or eBay. I did the latter, and got a grip and two new batteries for $50, including shipping.
The grip serves a few purposes. First, because it has button duplicates on it’s side, it’s great for portraits. No more twisting your arm uncomfortably to get the camera aligned! Secondly, they typically hold two batteries instead of just one. With good enough batteries, I’ve heard of a few people getting up to 2400 shots off of the grip between chargings. As an extra ‘bonus’, people will instantly think your camera is much better than it actually is!
With the additional battery and mass on the bottom of the camera, there is the side effect of the extra weight; expect about a 500g increase. While it doesn’t sound like much, you’ll notice. Although some people may look at this as a burden, I look at it as an improvement. That extra weight increases the camera’s inertia, helping to steady your shot and get sharper shots.
The other feature I like about the grip is the extra AA battery cartridge included with it. Say, for example, that you’re out on a photo shoot and forgot to charge your batteries. All you do is put 6 AA batteries in the supplied cartridge, put it in your camera, and away you go! Granted, they won’t last for long, but it’s a great backup when you’re in a pinch.
I think it’s definitely something that every serious SLR photographer should pick up. The combined worth of the grip and batteries is far more than what I paid for them.
I got the opportunity to see a few old friends this weekend. They happen to be in a band, and I needed an excuse to pull out the camera and get some use out of it. I shot 175 photos that night, and here’s a selection of 37 of them (1:5 ratio ain’t bad!). I’m pretty happy with how these turned out. I normally hate shooting in dark rooms, but a 430 EX II with a poor man’s flash reflector (ie. a white sheet of paper with an elastic band to hold it on) does wonders when you’re that close to your subject.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve been presented with the unique opportunity to be on the executive committee for one of the largest university groups on my campus; UMSwing has grown to be one of the most popular interest groups, and I would like to think that it has something to do with the executive committees of years past.
I love every minute that I spend working for the club, not because I think it’s good resume padding (my last job at the RCMP does a much better job of that) or that I think I will get some benefit from it; I love it because I am glad to give back to a community that has given a lot to me. It’s exciting to be in a position to shape the future of such a prominent student group.
The position I’m in takes up a lot of my time. I show up to almost every lesson to supervise, design all of the graphics-related materials for the club, as well as coordinate and chair executive meetings. I’d say on average I spend 10-12 hours/week during the middle of the semester (when there are no events in the works) on UMSwing stuff, and between double to triple that at the beginning of the semester.
Upon reflection however, I feel like I’m losing touch with some of the reasons I joined UMSwing in the first place. UMSwing was a place to learn something new, make some great new friends, get some self-confidence, and get in shape. Back when I was a member, I accomplished all of that and then some. I attended as many lessons as possible and met some friends who will be with me for the rest of my life. This year, I’ve only participated in one lesson as a student, and that was because we were drastically short leads. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that I don’t get the opportunity to meet any of the new members. To them, I’m simply somebody that signs members in and supervises lessons.
I find myself in the unfortunate situation where my friends, who are participating in the lessons, are meeting new people, making friends, and getting so much more out of the club than I am able to in my position. It’s a shame that I am only able to enjoy the fruits of my labours by watching our members enjoy themselves. Being in a work term next semester only means that I will have less of an opportunity to meet the members.
That being said, I’m glad that our members are getting so much out of the club. After all, they are the ones paying for lessons, and they are the priority. I’m glad to have been a part of the team that has given them the opportunity to meet new people and learn something new, and I hope they all enjoy the lessons, social events, and the friendships they will forge on the dance floor.
This winter, I will be going into my third work term in the Computer Science Co-Op program. Over the past two work terms, I’ve found that I’m pretty good at interviews; in fact, I have only gotten lower than a #1 ranking for one interview. I’ve also had the experience of being one of the interviewers, so I’ve seen the process on both sides. Interviews for winter work terms are coming up, and to help out some people who may be going through their first work term, here’s some quick tips to survive your first set of interviews and get a great job.
1. Get Some Sleep
Look, if you show up to your interview with bags under your eyes, chances are you won’t get hired. Show up awake, alert, and not hyped up on caffeine. Being on a good sleep cycle shows that you’re capable of preparing for things in advance, not at the last minute.
2. Do Your Research
Is the company you are applying for a major corporation or a mom-and-pop IT firm? Are they local-only or nation-wide? How many employees do they have? What is their mission statement? Where is their office located? Are you able to get there via transit, or will you have to drive?
It’s important to do a lot of preparation for an interview. Almost all interviewers will ask you what you did to prepare for the interview, so have a mental list prepared. You should also have a list of questions you want to ask them. Bring a written list of these questions. I have gone through interviews where they have asked if I have had any questions and they answered all of them in the interview, so have the list there to prove it. Show that you have questions and are interested about the job.
A quick word here on the job posters which you read prior to applying for the job. If there’s a technology or TLA (three-letter acronym) listed on the poster or in your job poster, be prepared to know what it is and what it’s used for. If you don’t, you look like you’re just padding your resume or didn’t do research about the job.
3. Don’t Skimp On The Answers
When you get asked a question, don’t just say the bare minimum to get by. Interviews are painful if it feels like the interviewers are pulling teeth to get a reply from you. Gerri (our co-op coordinator) always refers to the STAR method for situational questions. Tell them the situation, the task at hand, the action you took, and the result. Contrary to popular belief, it is FINE to tell them about a situation in which things did not turn out for the best, but be sure to tell them what you learned from the situation.
On the other hand, don’t keep talking until the cows come home. There’s a healthy balance between talking too much and talking too little.
Nobody likes seeing an interviewee so uptight they can barely speak. Many times the interviewers are very relaxed. While I was waiting for my first interview for the interviewers to show up, I overheard the following in the hallway as they approached:
“God, why the hell did Gerri schedule us for eight in the morning? NOBODY’S up this early!!”
Needless to say, we all had a great laugh in the hallway before my interview started. That interview went great.
Again, there’s a healthy balance. Don’t show up so relaxed that you’re acting like you’re talking to your friends. It’s possible to be professional while still being relaxed and enjoyable.
5. Show Up Early
At no point should you EVER show up late for an interview. If you’re taking a bus, go one bus early. You should always be at least fifteen minutes early. If you’re going to show up late, be sure to call them to let them know that you will be late, and hope that you have a great excuse.
So, those are a few tips to get you started. For those that are going into their first work term, I wish you all the best in your interviews, and I hope you get the job you want (unless, of course, it’s the one I also want, haha). For a bit of extra reading, take a look at Tipping Canoe, who has a great blog post about going through the interview process with them and their “infamous” interview questions. Who knows? Maybe those extra 5 gold coins you earn from reading that article can be cashed in for a job with them…
Although I’ve been planning on it for a while, I’ve been putting off the purchase of a home theatre PC for my house. I’ve been storing all of my media on a server running in my basement, but I didn’t have any way of playing that media on the TV in my living room. An HTPC seemed like the logical answer.
The only issue I had was that I was on a budget. I wanted to have this system powerful enough to handle 1080p video with no trouble, load up quickly, play anything that I can throw at it, and still be affordable. After watching some sales and pricing out the components, I managed to build a fully-functional system for only $317.
Here’s the component list for what I ordered:
- AMD Athlon II X2 250 3.0Ghz 65W processor – $62.99
- Foxconn A74ML-K AM3 Micro-ATX Motherboard – $46.99
- Rosewill WMC Remote – $24.99
- Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 4350 low-profile video card – $45.99
- hec Black Media Center case w/ 300W power supply – $59.99
A few notes about this:
- I already had a hard drive, so I didn’t have to buy one. I saw some for $36 recently that would do just fine for this.
- I had bought the wrong RAM (I bought DDR2 when I needed DDR3), but I had a friend who did the same thing but bought DDR3 when he needed DDR2. We traded RAM and I gave him $20 and we called it even.
- Operating System not included. I found that ATI’s proprietary Linux drivers don’t cut it for 1080p video and the sound output didn’t work with the TV in my living room, so you might want to find a Windows licence.
- I had an existing HDMI cable and a TV that supported HDMI output. You will either need both or will have to figure out another way of getting your video and sound on your TV.
My first build used Ubuntu 10.10 for the operating system, but I found that 1080p video just wouldn’t play smoothly. It looks like ATI just hasn’t put the spit polish on the Linux drivers. When I tried a full 1080p video it dropped several frames per second and maxed-out the graphics processor. So, I decided to go with a Windows build. I happened to have a spare licence of Windows 7 Professional, so I used that as my base operating system, and I’m really happy with it.
The media centre I’m using is XBMC Media Centre, which was originally designed to work on the classic Xbox (fun fact: I soft-modded a friend’s Xbox to run it; it works great until you throw something high-def at it), but now runs on Windows, Linux, Mac, or Apple TV for XBMC. If you’re looking for a home theatre frontend, I highly recommend this. It’s seriously one of the best pieces of software I’ve used, and it has support for a MySQL media database, which is great for me because I have multiple frontends that share content. After an install and a quick configuration change, it worked out of the box after I gave it my server login credentials.
The remote took a bit to get going. I found a guide online to disable Windows Media Center from loading when I hit the Windows logo on the remote, and set it up to open XBMC instead. Also, rather than booting into a Windows environment first, I configured Windows to load XBMC as its graphical frontend rather than explorer. This means that there’s no menu bar at the bottom, no applications running in the background to slow down processing power, and it’s much harder for people to use the computer for other purposes. After I got the remote working, I packed up the keyboard and mouse; I have no use for them anymore, as it should be with an HTPC.
All in all, I love this new thing. It runs so quiet I can barely hear it, uses little-to-no power, and will play absolutely anything that I have. It’s more expensive than those pre-built ones that Western Digital makes, but is customizable, can be used for other purposes such as surfing the internet, and has a compatibility list that can be summarized by “it can play it”. If you like your digital media and want to play it on a TV, build one of these; you won’t regret it.