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Jan 20,2008(WeekendEdition)

A hard copy of Michael Covington's Astrophotography for the Amateur may be difficult to local at your local book store.  We had to do a little digging on the Web before we were able to locate a used copy. 

There are some paperback units floating around on Amazon and EBay.  We wanted the hard copy because Covington's coverage of the topic is both theoretical and practical

There are lots of hight quality color photos, diagrams, and illustrations in the book.  A major bonus for us is many of the examples and photos in the book were done using a similar Celestron C8 telescope as what we'll be using for our own astrophotography projects.

Covington's approach to the book is much more technical compared to Seip.  For reader wanting a with a more indepth discussion on digital filtering (convolution, 3x3 sharpening matries, etc...) and other signal processing techniques, Covington covers these topics in a manner that is both understandable and relevant.

Astrophotography for the Amateur is both a great "how-to" manual as well as an excellent reference text.  If you are serious about astrophotography and is looking for something which will give you a stronger theoretical background on many of the related topics (optics, scope construction, digital signal processing), then you need to make sure you have a copy of Covington's book within easy reach. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Jan 19,2008(WeekendEdition)

According to our YES Cozmo watch, there will be a full moon tonight.  The timing is perfect as we had spent the weekend reading about astrophotography :-)  We know what you are thinking... some of us REALLY need to get out more.

Let us assure you, the topic of astrophotography is the ultimate convergence of all things us true geeks love: it involves loads of technical gear, there is a fanatical (yet friendly) user base, and the topic is ripe with tons of hacks and project opportunities.

We have been researching this subject for our first RainyDayScience topic and have come across some excellent books we thought we should share with those who may be thinking along these same lines.

Amateur astrophotography has benefitted greatly in recent years by the availability inexpensive digital cameras.  Webcam and small point-and-shoot digital cameras of exceptional quality may be had for less than $200!  Stefan Seip has written an excellent introduction the use of digital equipment and techniques in this area.

The book covers the entire range of equipment (webcam, digital cameras, DSLR, special purpose Astro gear) available to the amateur astrophotographer.  He discusses the relative benefits (image quality, ease of use) and trade-offs (cost, complexity) of each type of equipment. 

Topics such as post-capture image processing and manipulation are also covered.  There are some very interesting discussions on how to take advantage of the digital nature of the images to bring out details and colors not possible with traditional film techniques.  We expect we'll be referring to this book frequently as we strive to improve our on our astrophoto shots.  - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)

Robert and Barbara Thompson have written two books which will make it easier for someone just getting started in Astronomy or have been in the hobby for a while.  

Astronomy Hacks is a fantastic collection of observing tips, telescope projects, and knowledge obtained from years of practical hands-on field work.  This book should be read by anyone interested in Astronomy before they even think about buying their first telescope. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)

The night sky is a big place. Finding interesting things to look at is pretty easy.  Finding what you are looking for is a bit harder :-)

The Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders is a collection of interesting astronomical destinations.  The images in the book are shown as they would appear under actual observation out in the field.  They are also accompanied by directions and a "roadmap" on how to get there.

The format is practical and easy to use.  This guide is designed to allow the user to "plan a trip" as well as take it "on the road." - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Jan 18,2008(FlashItFriday)

We turned off one of our Moto RAZR yesterday and got a very different "log on" screen when we tried turning it back on.  It appears that the software on the phone somehow got corrupted and was not able to start up poperly.

A service call to T-Mobile and visits to two T-Mobile stores convinced us that it was highly unlikely that anyone in those stores would be sufficently technical to help.  We should have just Googled "Boot Loader" and saved ourselves a lot of running around.  A quick search brought us up-to-date on the basics of RAZR phone flashing (MultiFlashFlex, Monster Packs, RSD Lite). 

The basic steps to "re-flashing" a phone are: find the software drivers to enable the phone to be recognized by computer when connected via USB, obtain the appropriate upgrade pack(s) for the phone, use an uploading tool to install the upgrade software to the phone.

Once the "re-flashing" process completed the RAZR came back to life.  The phone now functions perfectly.  It responses faster, has a few more applications, and we think the photos taken with the camera may even have improved!

If our success in repairing the RAZR has given you the inspiration to try it with your dead phone, then go poke around on the Net. You will eventually find what you need. 

Just beware that we had to look in some pretty dodgy areas for some of the files and tools.  However, if you have a phone which has crashed to the point of no recovery, then you don't have much to lose.  It will be more fruitful than bringing it to the phone store and in the end at least you will have learned something.  We can pretty much guarantee THAT :-) - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Jan 17,2008(TastyThursday)

For readers fortunate enough to be in the Boston area on Jan 26, Shobu Aikido of Boston is having a Sake Tasting Fundraiser at their dojo!

There will be lots of great Aikido demos, good live music, and a wonderful gathering of fantastic energy.  RainyDayMagazine will be there.  We hope you will come and party with us at the event! - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Jan 16,2008(WowUsWednesday)

We are sure those interested in all things Apple have already heard about the supermodel thin MacBook Air announced at yesterday's MacWorld.

However, just in case you haven't, here is a summary: 3 lbs, 5 hr battery life, $1800.  Features includes a multi-touch trackpad, built-in iSight camera, and the option for a 64GB SSD.  What is an SSD?

SSD stands for Solid State Drive and is made of Flash memory.  It is the same stuff used to store pictures in your digital camera packaged to work like a hard drive.  Why use SSD?  Flash memory chips has no moving parts.  It uses no power unless data is being read from or written to it.  It will not care if it is dropped.  It is perfect for laptops.  Why is it not used everywhere now?  It is expensive.  At today's prices, a 64GB SSD will cost around $1000 to $1500.  Compare that to a regular 80GB hard drive costing around $150 and you see that it will be a few more years before SSDs can make it in the mass market.

However, we are glad to see this option available even if it will only be a selected few who can afford it.  Options such as SSD is a chicken and egg issue.  The cost will go down when there is mass adoption.  Mass adoption will only occur when it is cost competitive.  Sony has had this option available in some of the UMPCs.  Now with the introduction of the MacBook Air, that day is getting a little closer.- Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Jan 15,2008(BluetoothTechTuesday)

A LOT of Bluetooth headphones have passed through the RainyDayMagazine office over the years.  We have tried units from Plantronics, ORokr, RazrWire, etc...  They all worked well and are great to use while driving in the Boxster with the top down.  However, none of them are ones we would wear any longer than necessary because they are just too big.

This week two new units (Invisio B3, Invisio G5) from NextLink showed up at the office.  They are incredibly small!  So small that we may even be able to leave it in all the time :-)

The Invisio G5 headphone is the smaller of the two.  The G5 is so tiny that it cannot be charged using a mini USB plug.  Instead, it comes with a separate carrying case which doubles as a charging unit. 

The case has a built in battery so the G5 can be recharged when it is not plugged into an outlet.  A very clever design!!!

To charge the headphone, just place it inside the case and close the top.  The case and G5 may be charged simultaneously. 

We have a few different headsets to test this month.  One of them is from FoneGear and two from NextLink.  It looks like we'll be making a lot of calls this month! - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)


Jan 14,2008(MoreSnowMonday)

The first snow storm of 2008 rolled into town late last night.  It is expected to move through the New England region this morning and leave behind 8" of the heavy white stuff.

The world outside the office window is pretty much black and white at the moment.  We may just take the day off and go shoot some photos in the Arboretum... - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)

When a storm is howling outside the office, the interns are usually curled up in their various napping spots.  However, we have noticed lately that they have not been using their favorite cat beds (Dolce Vita, SleepPod).  We decided to wash the covers and check the heating pads

The Dolce Vita bed warmer may be powered by a rechargeable battery when the unit is not plugged into an AC outlet.  The warming coils are covered by a thin cotton cover.  The pad was not designed to be removeable.

The SleepyPod pad, while not battery powered, is fully sealed and removeable for easy cleaning.

We checked both heating pads and neither of them appear to be working.  We contacted SleepyPod and they are shipping a replacement unit out ASAP.  The problem with the Dolce Vita bed warmer may take a little more work to isolate.  It looks like the interns will have to brave this storm by finding some other warm places in which to curl up.  - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)



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