Is a smartphone a substitute for a proper camera?

"Is a smartphone a substitute for a proper camera?" was an interesting question, posed on a photographic forum to which I belong . It certainly got me thinking... Firstly, I think there is a certain element of "using the right tool for the job" here. An analogy if I may: one can (un)do most screws with a pen knife. There are even knives with moderately good screwdrivers built-into them. I have several and I would not hesitate to use one if I were in a "get me home" type situation. However, if I were undertaking a planned job, on my… Read More ►

Stag Beetle Larvae in my garden

I decided to a bit of work in the garden yesterday afternoon. As I was clearing away some of the dead wood from some old tree stumps round the back of my shed, I came across these wee beasties. They were massive. Unfortunately they were a tad camera-shy, but before they curled up, they were around 50mm long and 8-10mm in diameter... They certainly seem able to chew some quite impressive holes in these rotting tree stumps - some 10mm-12mm in diameter. As you can see from This close-up, they seem to have quite powerful jaws too. Thoughts of that… Read More ►

GNU’s not Unix? If not then why not?

The GNU/Linux family of operating systems (e.g. Debian, Fedora, KDE Neon, Kubuntu, LinuxMint, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Xubuntu et al) are not permitted to use the UNIX trademark. Instead, they are described as "unix-like". In fact, the "GNU" in GNU/Linux (c/w the "G" in GIMP) is a recursive acronym meaning GNU's not Unix. In a nutshell, the GNU/Llinux family of operating systems do all sorts of clever unixy stuff, but they cannot legally call themselves UNIX. Whereas Apple's OSX is  UNIX. In fact, most releases of OSX are amongst the few OS's that are actually certified as Unix. Which means it… Read More ►

Another update: Raspberry π4 for Zoneminder part 3

Raspberry π4 for ZoneMinder Part 1 - Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder Part 2 - Update: Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder Part 3 - Another update: Raspberry π4 for Zoneminder (you are here) My π4 Zoneminder has been running for just over two months. Overall I'm pretty happy with it. The main issue I had was that the current stable version of Zoneminder 1.34.x was not available for the ARM64 version of Pi OS in the Debian repository. At time of writing, most of the current release of Pi OS is in fact Debian version 10 (Buster), and it comes… Read More ►

Why I quite like USB C

A lot of folks complaining that they have to go buy yet another set of USB leads, thanks to this newfangled USB C plug that's come along. So what's it all about and why do practically all new smartphones come equipped with it? Main reason is that it allows suitably equipped mobile devices to charge much more rapidly. Theoretically, USB C allows up to 20 volts at up to 5 amps (100 watts) - as opposed to mini-B and micro-B type 5 volts 2.1 amps (10.5 watts). Though I personally have some reservations regarding the practicality and safety of running… Read More ►
Damaged SD card

Fixing a damaged SD slot

There are many ways to break an SD slot, but a surprisingly common one is to jam a tiny piece of plastic it it that has snapped off from a damaged SD card. The tiny plastic dividers between an CD card's contacts can snap off. I've had quite several cards do that over the years. Usually one can just pull off the loose bit and continue using it. But occasionally it snaps off whilst actually in the socket. This guy explains it better than I can... NB, I don't think the guy actually mentions this, but I would strongly… Read More ►

Removing tricky screw thread lens filters

I'm a fairly keen amateur photographer. Over the years, I have collected quite an assortment of vintage lenses, filters and other bits and bobs. I have also encountered quite a few sticky filters. However, I can honestly say that I have never destroyed a filter by attempting to remove it. Having the correct tool helps removing sticky screw thread lens filters. For a few quid you can buy dedicated lens filter spanners, as shown on the photo below. Mine cover a range from 37mm up to 82mm inclusive. All the filters in the photo can be removed using these spanners.… Read More ►

Merry Christmas 2020

Seems we had to put up with Donald Trump, Brexit and Coronavirus all in one year! Here in Havant on the south coast of England, we are now in what our Government describes as a coronavirus Tier 4 area. Personally I don't mind staying at home. I have enough food, half a bottle of decent-is scotch and plenty of toys to play with, But for more gregarious folks, being stuck at home is not pleasant. Hence this year's card reflects the world in which we find ourselves. Hopefully things will improve in 2021 as coronavirus vaccines become more widely available.… Read More ►

Update: Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder part 2

Following on from my last article, this is Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder part 2. Now I have had time to set it up and test it for a while. Firstly, I decided to abandon the ARM64 version of Ubuntu on π because it seems slow and clunky. Basically it seems the current beta ARM64 Raspian "Buster" is actually better than the allegedly tested LTS ARM64 Ubuntu 20.04.1. It's a heck of a lot faster too  and the Pi-specific tools actually work as well. And while I remember it, apparently Raspian has been rebranded as Raspberry Pi OS now -… Read More ►

Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder

This is a overview of my adventures experimenting with a tiny Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder GNU/Linux-based security system. Raspberry π4 for ZoneMinder Part 1 - Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder (you are here) Part 2 - Update: Raspberry π4 8GB for Zoneminder Part 3 - Another update: Raspberry π4 for Zoneminder Background I have been running Zonemnder GNU/Linux PC-based servers both for my home and for a few customers for several years. It's worked pretty well too. In fact, my wife and I really like our system. She shares certain cams with her folks back in Hungary. And my… Read More ►

Good riddance to Orange Blotus

At approximately 16:25 UTC today, 2020-11-07, the result of the 2020 US presidential election was finally called. Joe Biden is the 46th President elect of the United States. Apparently Orange Blotus is somewhat displeased and is threatening all sorts of court action and other nonsense. Seems Trump thinks he can bully the United States government with threats of court action, the same way he bullies his tenants and former minions. I rather doubt the US Supreme Court will be involved this time around. Biden actually has quite a substantial majority now. Furthermore, Trump announcing he would take it to court… Read More ►

Remote shooting using “IP Webcam” software.

Folks considering remote shooting via smartphone may wish to experiment with Pavel Khlebovich's "IP Webcam". Basically it's an amazingly clever and full-featured app that allows you to control the camera(s) on your smartphone with a remote computer, using standard internet protocols. I initially got into it because it plays nicely with Zoneminder. Thus any of my smartphones can be used as security cameras. I use it quite regularly on my rooted Ulefone 3w. to stream video to our Zoneminder installation. But it actually does way more than that. For a start, it offers several different methods of displaying video… Read More ►

A surprisingly straightforward studio flash repair

Back in 2015 I bought 3 pairs of  studio flash heads (one pair 400 joule, one pair 360 joule and one pair 200 joule). They were supplied as bargain bundles, complete with stands, brollies etc. via sellers on eBay. They were quite a bargain. Each flash head worked out at approximately £50 per unit,  They are branded "Senweit" but were actually manufactured by Shenzhen Nice Photographic Equipment Co.,Ltd. They were "end of line" products. In fact, I understand the product was discontinued in or around 2014. They are also beautifully made with (mostly ) metal casing and all-metal 16mm mounting… Read More ►

Ulefone 3w ruggedised smartphone

I recently purchased an unlocked Chinese Ulefone Armor 3W. - c/w  Mediatek chipset, 8-core 64-bit CPU, dual unlocked SIM slots, 256GiB TF slot and 10700mAH battery. I have quite a soft-spot for cheap generic Chinese phones. Of course, one has to choose the product quite carefully. You need to ensure your preferred device is not hobbled, or encumbered with masses of bloatware. If you want to make the device really useful then one also needs to be prepared to a little work oneself - especially if you wish to root the device. Because of its high power and relatively low… Read More ►

Why does Google think I’m at Barnard Castle?

In fact, I am 416 kilometres away from Barnard Castle, as the crow flies, or about 500km by road. Granted, I very seldom use Google as a search engine. I use privacy-aware searches instead such as DuckDuckGo. I have also been to great lengths to prise my rooted smartphone from Google's clutches too. But my PC connects via a permanent IP address that hasn't moved location for 8 years! Last time I personally went anywhere near Barnard Castle was back in 2001. I honestly haven't made this up. This is a full-screen grab, unedited, captured 13:42 UTC today. What is… Read More ►

Sliderule – the eco-friendly computer from days of old

Some of my favourite computers require no PSU, no batteries, no RAM, no disks, no upgrades and they are 100% resistant to all known malware. No, I'm not talking about some newfangled Linux. I'm talking about good old fashioned sliderules. :-) Sliderules top to bottom... Top: Darmstadt 304. Despite its German-sounding name, this sliderule was in fact British. 1970's. Middle: Beautifully engineered but rather faded, all-metal (except the cursor) Picket and Eckel N-500-T, from the United states, c/w original real-leather case. Early 1960's. Bottom: The schoolboy's favourite - a British Thornton AD150 log-log slide rule. This example is a bit… Read More ►

Backups: NAS vs external hard disk

Discussion came up on a forum to which I belong whether it is better to use NAS (network attached storage) or external hard drives for backup. My answer is why not use both? Effectively I have three NAS servers. One is a media server. The others are purely backup - though they can quickly be repurposed as a media server if the first one were to suffer a catastrophic failure. I also have a number of external drives too. But in all cases they are devices I have chosen to build myself, rather than buy off the shelf. Here's why...… Read More ►

Home made light modifier

OK, so we are still in coronavirus lockdown here in the UK and I have spent the afternoon playing! :-) I saw the basic idea on a web forum on a photography site, and decided to look around my garage and see if there was any thing suitable to produce something similar. I also took a few quick hand-held snaps of the results. This is my last piece of (rather battered) perforated stainless steel sheet, cut to a roughly rectangular 29cm x 18cm, c/w edge protector (to prevent cutting ones hands on the sharp edges). Excuse the extra hole. It… Read More ►

Virtual backdrops and wallpapers

Freebies to beat those lockdown blues This is a collection of virtual backdrops and wallpapers that you may download, manipulate and enjoy, for free. These images were created by capturing and saving a large number snap-shots of an open source music visualisation application for GNU/Linux called ProjectM - not to be confused with a 2008 computer game with a very similar name. I originally created these as desktop wallpapers for computer systems. A purpose for which they work pretty well, even if I do say so myself. However, as a keen photographer I discovered they could also be deployed as… Read More ►