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May 30-31,2009

One of the many great things about having a garden is all the photo ops available through out the day.  Birds come by to check out what's in in the feeder, bees zoom around looking for pollen and nectar, and the bugs are crawling around doing whatever they do.  All are good opportunities for sharpening ones nature photography skills.

Getting a decent close-up shot is easy in a studio under controlled lighting, no wind, and a sturdy tripod.  When we are out "in the field", shifting light and sudden breezes are always there to mess up a perfectly composed shot.  The goal is to train yourself to work fast... compose quickly (shot now, crop later), be familiar with the camera (no time to search for a feature), and work with a versatile lens (no time to change lenses). 

We have been using the Nikon d90/Nikkor 18-200VR combo for the past three months for all of our shots.  The pair have been proven themselves to be a nice "grab and go" piece of gear.  The zoom lens is sharp enough for... [More] - RainyDayDesktop pics


May 29,2009

The RainyDayGarden, like many other gardens, have both sunny and shady sections.  We are constantly experimenting with "what will grow where" and the results are sometimes surprising. Plants which will do well in one area may not be as vigorious when moved to a different section, but many will adapt just fine.  To get more colors in our shadier sections, we are constantly testing new flowering plants there in hopes that they would take.  There is one section which has vexed us for many years, but we think we have finally found a good combination of plants for the patch. 

This one section gets very bright sunlight during the latter part of the day, but for the mornig and the hour or so after high noon it is covered in partial shade due to the shadow from the building.  When it does get sun, it is too bright for hostas and ferns.  However, there is not enough daylight for "true" sun loving plants.  We have been experimenting with... [More] - Irises and ferns


May 28,2009

Look closely at the screen below.  Notice anything odd? Yes, it is in black and white.  Yes, it is visible in bright sunlight.  Yes, it is attached to a laptop.  This new screen is a combination of an e-paper display and a color LCD screen.  Interesting.

The color LCD screen is for when working indoors and the e-paper display will take over when out in bright sunlight.  The concept is good but the key will be the response time is of the e-paper screen.  Our guess is it will be fine for... [More] - Pixel Qi


May 27,2009

There is a movie theater that we go to on opening nights of blockbusters such as Star Trek, Angels & Demons, and Terminator Salvation.  The reason is there is never a line.  We don't know why.  The screens are big, there's plenty of free parking, and good restaurants are nearby.  Maybe the folks of Chestnut Hill don't go to the movies on Friday nights.  In any case, it is our first choice when we know tickets will be hard to get or the lines may be long.

Another bonus of going to the Chestnut Hill theater is that it abuts Hammond Pond.  Instead of waiting in the theater, we stroll around outside until it is time to go in for the show.  On a typical evening, there are all kinds of... [More] - Hammond Pond


May 26,2009

The much anticipated Wolfram Alpha has launched.  Is it a search engine? Is it a "Google killer?"  Or is it something completely new?  If it is from Wolfram Research, you can be sure it is a bit of all of the above.

Data is needed to generate information.  Information is required for knowledge.  Knowledge is the key to understanding.  Wolfram Alpha is a tool which takes massive amount of information, uses who knows how many computers to... [More] - Wolfram Alpha


May 25,2009

We have a nice little bistro set out on the RainyDayGarden deck.  The problem is they are exposed to the elements all year long.  We would bring them in over the Winter, but we don't really have the space to store any of it.  As a consequence, they have started to develop some rust patches after 9 years.

The folding chairs themselves are sound and most of the finish is still quite good.  There is some peeling paint and some exposed rusty patches, but... [More] -Rustoration


May 24,2009

The cardinals and blue jays have been busy gobbling up the feast of seeds and nuts some of the editors have been putting out in the RainyDayGarden. 

The abundance of rain this year has been great for the Spring blooms, especially for the clematis. All of the vines have been very vigorous coming out of the Winter and the blooms have been quite... [More] -May Flowers


May 23,2009

Yesterday we showed how to remove the top cover to gain access to the keyboard.  Again, instructions from the folks at PowerbookMedic are excellent.  We encourage our readers to check them out.  We took photos of things which we thought warranted a closer look.  Click on any of the photos here for a larger version.

Today we will walk you through the steps for replacing the keyboard.   When we examined the top, we noticed a layer of black tape sitting between the keyboard tray and the main circuit board.  As readers may be aware, this MBP keyboard has... [More] -Replacing the Macbook Pro keyboard


May 22,2009

One of the parts (besides the battery) which seem to always need replacing on used Mac laptops is the keyboard.  The 12" Powerbook we bought had some non-functioning keys.  The same was true of this 15" Macbook Pro we got a few weeks ago.  

We found a good deal ($32, free shipping) on a new keyboard on EBay.  It took a while getting here as the seller was in China. There are few different versions so be sure to... [More] -Removing the Macbook Pro keyboard


May 21,2009

The iPhone SDK has always required a Mac with an Intel processor.  While we have been able to successfully hack the iPhone SDK installer to make it work on the 12" Powerbook G4 we purchased last year, we knew at some point it would be more trouble than it was worth.  Now that the new unibody Macbooks have hit the streets, there are plenty of older Macbook Pros available on Craigslist.   We managed to score a 2.12GHz unit a few weeks ago for just $500 cash.  Anyone want to buy a used 12" Powerbook?  We'll give you a good deal :-)

For $500, the unit was about 50% off the going rate.  The main reasons for the discount price were: it only had 1GB of RAM, the battery was dead, and not all the keys on the keyboard worked.  Ebay to the rescue.  We got another gig of RAM for $10 and a new battery from BTI for $25.  Getting a new keyboard took a little bit of work, but more on that some other time.

The first thing we usually do with a new laptop is wipe the drive and reinstall the OS.  With this newly acquired used Macbook Pro, we wanted to avoid having to manually transfer all of the personalized settings, apps, and files from the Powerbook.  Fortunately, the Mac OS installation process has a feature to... [More] -Upgrading a Macbook Pro


May 20,2009

We got tons of emails with a link to this awesome video, shot using a modified DSLR (IR filter removed) configured for astrophotography.  The video was created using a wide angle lens and time-lapsed over the the course of the night.  Truly spectacular.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.    [Permalink]-Milky Way


May 19,2009

We all know that one cannot judge a book by its cover, but if you paid $350 for the book, you would want it to have a pretty good cover.  For Kindle owners, protective covers were available from Amazon since the device was announced. Now alternatives to Amazon's basic black offering have started to make their way to the marketplace. 

Amazon designed the Kindle2 to easily accommodate an add-on cover.  On the left side of the device are two slits.  They allow a set of hooks to grab and hold a cover in place without the usual straps or velcro contraptions.  The result is a... [More]-Kindle protection


May 18,2009

Some of us were working for Kodak in the early 90's when digital photography was just starting to become mainstream.  There were a LOT heated discussions regarding the direction of digital imaging.  One of those discussions was around how photographers were going to convert their slides and negatives to digital files.  There was a camp which believed that "real" photographers would never give up shooting film because of the huge gap in image resolution between film and digital.  The same camp was also arguing for the creation of "scanning centers" where large scanners would deliver 1 megabyte "high quality" scans for customers as an option along with their prints.  It was a nice PowerPoint presentation.

Fast forward to today.  Digital photography has eclipsed film photography in a huge way.  Almost nobody shoots film or slides anymore.  Some of our younger interns have never actually seen a film camera.  So when this ImageLab scanner showed up at the office, they were not quite sure what to make of it.  The older staff immediately said... [More]-ImageLab Scanner


May 17,2009

Quote of the year: "'You,' I said, 'a favorite with Mr. Rochester? You gifted with the power of pleasing him? You of importance to him in any way? Go! your folly sickens me.'" pg. 222, Jane Eyre

For those who want to support a starving artist...Sarah is starting her own line of T-shirts.  They will be available for sale directly on her website at some point.  If you want to beat the rush and pre-order yours, drop Sarah a line[Permalink]-Support a Starving Artist


May 16,2009

Last September our intern Sarah started her matriculation at RISD.  As many of you know, Sarah is the one who came up with our "We Entertain When It Rains" tag line.  Even though it has been a year, we still get periodic emails asking about her progress.  Sarah was in Boston this weekend for FirstGrill, to drop off all the stuff she will need in the Fall, and to share with us some of the work she did this past year.  Go here for the entire collection.

Sarah will be on the West Coast this Summer, so it appears our garden will have to somehow weed itself.  However, she did agree to, as part of her Summer activities, to create a logo for RainyDayMagazine.  We can hardly wait!  [Permalink]-The First Year


May 15,2009

Recently our RainyDayLA team visited the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, CA.  Almost 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus were in bloom and arranged in amazing bands of color. Each spring this fabulous sight blooms from March through May.  Throughout the season there are a number of events, and this year included a demonstration of macro photography sponsored by Canon.

As beautiful as these fields are, they are easily missed, as the view from the freeway is blocked by trees and other vegetation.  Many may have driven past this section of... [More]-The Flower Fields


May 14,2009

The Hubble Telescope is probably the most famous instrument in the history of science.  This week NASA launched the shuttle Atlantis to do a final upgrade to the Hubble Telescope.  It will be sad to see this amazing piece of gear go "dark" in five years, but it has served its purpose and has earned a well deserved place in history.

Look closer at the image below.  The specks in front of what looks like an egg yolk are not what you might think.  French astronomer, Thierry Legault, managed to capture the first ever photo of a space shuttle (Atlantis and the Hubble space telescope) passing in front of the Sun!

The entire transit event lasted less than one second.  Had you been looking and blinked, you would have missed it.  With the aid of a Takahashi TOA-130 refractor (diameter 130mm, final focal 2200mm), Baader solar filter, and at... [More]-Shuttle Atlantis Solar Transit


May 13,2009

Last August we reported that one of our iMac screens had started getting these odd vertical stripes on the left-hand side.  It appeared to be a hardware problem and Apple was no help as the unit was past the 1 year warranty.  We never buy AppleCare for any of our Macs as we think buying extended hardware warranty is a rip-off.

Since we didn't have AppleCare, the projected cost to replace the screen was WAY more than reasonable.  So we worked out a solution by stepping down the display resolution.  However, we never really liked losing the extra screen space. 

One way to recover the lost space is to go dual-screens.  Dual-screen support has been native on the Mac for decades.  It used to be more plug-and-play, but... [More]- iMac Multi-screen


May 12,2009

Several months ago the RainyDayGarage guys got a mailing from Porsche tell them about "the next Porsche."  It is a four-seater coupe called the Panamera.  This front-engine, rear-wheel drive addition to the Porsche family will make its debut in 2010.  We expect Porsche to step up the marketing campaign on this vehicle in the latter half of the year. 

For readers who want to better understand heritage of the Panamera, they would be well served to add the book by Giancarlo Reggiani to their Porsche library.  Porsche:The Legend covers the history of these fabled cars from... [More]- The Next Porsche


May 11,2009

The Kindle2 came into the office at the end of April.  Folks have been taking their turn checking it out.  We wanted to see if having access to things we wanted to read at any time changes the way we interact with the reading material.  First, though, we had to get some content into the Kindle2.  Thanks to Amazon, the process is both fast and easy.

The Kindle is connected to the Amazon store all the time, giving us access to magazines, newspapers, books, and even blogsBrowsing is a little... [More]- Kindle Online


May 9-10,2009

Anyone who has attempted to learn Chinese knows that it is challenging.  With an alphabet-based language such as English, it is possible to figure out how to pronounce a word by looking at its spelling. This is not so with a character-based language like Chinese...either you know how to pronounce the character or you don't.  The only way is to learn character-based languages is to memorize how to pronouce them a character at a time. There are no short cuts, no magic methods, or simple solutions...just hard work.  However, the SmartPen may be able to help.  While the SmartPen is more of a personal device today, we think it has the potential to be a great learning tool. 

When Mr. and Mrs. Lau, parents of one of the editors, saw the SmartPen they thought it would be "fun" to use it to reproduce the famous book 1000 Character Text often used to teach Chinese characters.  Their idea was to annotate the text so a student could then tap on a word to hear its pronuciation and its meaning.  Clever!

We checked in with them this weekend to see how they were coming along with the project.  So far, Mr. and Mrs. Lau have done a few different versions and are now experimenting with... [More]- LiveScribe Online


May 8,2009

The RainyDayGarage folks went to the opening of Style and Innovation of the American Automobile at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum last night.

It was an amazing evening of fashion, food, and fun!  We have been to many past events at the LAAM and they are always a blast.  The people are friendly, the conversations interesting, and everyone attending LOVE cars!  What more... [More]- Larz Anderson Auto Museum


May 7,2009

With all the shorelines in MA, we are always surprise at how difficult it is to find a restaurant with a decent view of the ocean.  There are a few in Boston, but they are not a prevalent as one would think. 

When we were sitting around lamenting this observation, one of our editors, who grew up in Quincy MA, told us about the Ocean Club in Hull.  She said it was right on the beach, has a great sunset view, and is less than... [More]- Ocean Club, Hull MA


May 6,2009

We unpacked the Cuisinart Rice Plus Multi-Cooker this weekend to familiarize ourselves with the device prior to the upcoming FirstGrill event.  This Cuisinart cooker is no ordinary rice steamer.  It is a new generation of "smart" kitchen devices that "know" how to optimize cooking time and heat depending on the ingredients.  This is the kind of gear that you, our RainyDayKitchen readers, have asked us to tell you more about :-)

The Cuisinart unit is about the size of large bread box and will fit nicely on most... [More]- Cuisinart Fuzzy Logic Cooker FirstLook


May 5,2009

Fuzzy logic is not a contradiction in terms.  It is a whole new way to program machines so they "work" the way humans do... which is to say, kind of "fuzzy." 

Imagine if your washing machine knows to use more detergent when the clothes are dirtier, or more water if it was a larger load, or to optimize the spin and wash agitation depending on the types of fabric being washed?  That would be pretty sweet, huh?  What if you had a rice cooker that knows the time difference between cooking white rice and brown rice? One cup and five cups? Soups and stews?

Cuisinart has has incorporated fuzzy logic technology into its Rice Plus Multi-Cooker so that it "knows" how to... [More]- Cuisinart Fuzzy Logic Cooker


May 4,2009

Stephan Wolfram of Wolfram Research has always used mathematics to extend the boundaries of human understanding.  He made his first commercial mark with Mathematica, a software tool that did for science and research what spreadsheets did for business.  He then went quiet for about a decade and came back on the scene with a book called A New Kind of Science.  NKS caused all kinds of passionate comments and discussion when it was first published. 

Some compared it to Newton's Principia.  Others thought it a compilation of loosely strung together ramblings.  A lot of it was about how Wolfram went about publishing his theories, research, and conclusion.  Good scientific works can always stand the test of time.  It will be interesting to... [More]- Wolfram Alpha


May 3,2009

The weather has been beautiful these past two weekends. We decided it was probably safe to swap out the Boxster's snow tires for the Summer road tires.  This year we checked and filled up all the Summer tires BEFORE putting them on the Boxster.  That is just good practice because one year we missed a nail in a tire, put the tire on the car, and it immediately went flat.  Our go-to portable pump is the Clore Automotive's JNCAir.  We have had it for a few years now.  It costs a bit more up front, but it always works when we need it.

A few weeks ago, we brought the Boxster in for the annual inspection. It failed because the front shocks needed replacing.  Last week, it threw a code (P0302) because two of the fuel injectors went bad.  A quick check with the Bentley's Porsche Boxster Service Manual made us realize that... [More]- Spring Boxster Tune up


May 2,2009

The weather for this weekend is supposed to be overcast with a possibility of rain.  A low contrast day is always perfect lighting for photos of the RainyDayGarden.  The timing couldn't have been better as the May blooms are just starting to peak.

Many of the Spring tulips have been blooming for about a week already.  The Japonicas have just started to flower and should be in full glory by mid-May.  The Tiger Lilies and iries will... [More]- RainyDayGarden May Blooms


May 1,2009

Amazon's Kindle2 arrived at the office earlier in the week.  Folks here have been taking their turn at it non-stop. The general impression of v2.0 of the Kindle have been overwhelmingly positive.  The Kindle2 is neither a laptop nor tablet computer.  It is not an MP3 player, a PDA, or a netbook.  Although the Kindle2 can do many of those things, its was designed to be electronic version of a physical book.  Better yet, it is the next major evolution in the path of a physical book.  Today, we'll take a FirstLook at the basics (size, controls, etc...) of the Kindle2.

The Kindle2 has a lot of cool new physical upgrades (better display, more memory, longer battery life, etc...). but one of the more controversial addition to the Kindle2 is... [More]- Kindle 2.0 FirstLook


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