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Wish list October 27, 2009

Posted by CK in Miscellaneous, Personal.
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I just started a wish list on Amazon. All the moderately expensive stuff that I have to remind myself I’m only wishing to buy, otherwise with my current pace of purchasing gadgets I’ll soon go bankrupt.

Hateful reviewers October 25, 2009

Posted by CK in Funny, Research.
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Sometimes, you submit a paper to a conference, and you know the chances are somewhat slim based on usual acceptance rates. So you are familiarized with the idea that your paper will be rejected, but don’t quite expect what happens then. You get your 4 reviews, and one reviewer is very happy with your paper. You get a 9/10 overall. Then the other two are posing some reasonable questions, but still they both give you a 7/10 overall. And then, then comes one who basically provides all kinds of completely useless, stupid, unjustified, plain wrong comments, and gives you a 2/10 — even on paper organization, that the others all marked with an almost perfect grade. Now I have a few ways to interpret this behavior, none of which can be elaborated without becoming too explicit. I mean, this just shows hate. If it wasn’t a blind review, I would seriously think it was personal. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had papers rejected before, and I’m perfectly ok with that, when it comes with justified comments and useful advice. But when it happens without those, it’s just bothering me.

I hate hateful reviewers, and some times, I just hate my luck (or lack of luck, thereof).

A nice facility for your small projects October 18, 2009

Posted by CK in IT, Productivity.
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Many times I have to use some version control system (VCS) for small, limited-duration projects such as scientific papers, proposals, etc. More often than not, this is a problem to arrange when people from different organizations are involved. Setting up some VCS repository usually means that either you have to ask your administrator to deal with it for you, or you have to do it and you are not too fond of granting access to external collaborators to your VCS server, or there may exist some other sensible reason. For such cases, there exist a number of VC facilities on the internet, that offer free access and repositories up to some point, then if you need more disk space, more users on your repository, etc, you have to pay a monthly subscription. They deal with all the complexity, take backups for you, provide you with easy access and management interfaces, etc.

In my search, I found plenty of nice such facilities with varying degrees of free access and other features. Eventually, I ended up using Project Locker, on the grounds that it was the only such system to offer secure access in its free version. Project Locker offers Subversion and Git repositories.

Overall, I can highly recommend it. The 500 MB of free storage are not too much, and maybe you’ll find more elsewhere, but at the end of the day even if it’s double, it’s only a matter of time before you hit the limit and you have to pay. So even if you get e.g. 1GB elsewhere, it’s not a big deal. There’s a maximum of 5 users for your repository, you get redundant RAID and nightly backups, unlimited bandwidth and number of projects, etc. For me, it was of great importance to have SSL access, and as I said this was the only facility to offer it in the free version. The administration interface is also more than ok. I wasn’t ecstatic about it, but it works perfectly well, offers all the functionality and security functions that I need (e.g. add collaborators just with their email address, without a need to sign them up), and in general I have no complaints.

So perhaps something to consider for your next paper or other short collaborative task.

PS: If you are planning to sign up with them, perhaps you can be so kind to include me as a referral source so that I get a few free MBs 🙂 You’ll need my email address, which you can find e.g. here.

Photography books October 17, 2009

Posted by CK in Design.
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After buying a digital SLR, I thought I’d make an honest effort and do some reading about photography. So following my instinct and Amazon user reviews, I bought and read a few relevant books. In what follows, I’ll provide some short review of each one of them, in the sequence that I read them.

  1. The Digital Photography Book, vol. 1 and 2. This is the most famous digital photography book in Amazon (Volume 1, basically; the link here is a boxed set of the first two volumes). With probably millions of sales, countless positive reviews, etc. I don’t know how on earth that’s possible. I read the book and kept thinking “there must be more to this later on”. I won’t discuss about the irritating humor of the author, which is, at the end of the day, a matter of personal taste. My main problem was the book itself, lacking any kind of focus whatsoever. As I also wrote in my Amazon review of the book, what’s the rational behind writing a “quick friendly tips” book such as this, and have complete chapters on wedding photography? I gave away the books to my sister and she was very happy with them, but I would never recommend to anyone to buy them.
  2. Understanding Exposure. Bryan Peterson, the author of the book, is a true master. He has an amazing talent of explaining the essential concept of Exposure, in simple and intuitive ways. His overall discussion of the topic was very complete, and it left me with no complaints whatsoever. A reference book that everyone dealing with photography needs to read. It’s no wonder that this book is one of the most highly recommended by authors of other photography books.
  3. The Betterphoto Guide to Digital Photography. This is a very decent book, with good flow and easy to read. Although the examples were laid out very nicely, I must admit I didn’t like the author’s pictures themselves. But one could say that’s irrelevant, as they were meant to illustrate concepts (plus the author explains, even at the very beginning, that there has been no processing whatsoever in most of them). Although the book was nice and complete, having read “Understanding Exposure” already, reduced its value (to me!) quite a lot. Nevertheless, it touches on additional topics (e.g. composition) so it was still interesting to read certain parts of it. Overall it’s fairly complete, and if you’re a beginner I would certainly recommend that you start with it.
  4. Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography. Another masterpiece by Bryan Peterson, this book discusses composition; that is, choosing photography subjects, framing, etc. This is a book to read after you have understood the technique, i.e. how to use Aperture, Shutter speed, and the like. The book offers plenty of advice, discussing design principles first. It provides insight that I found to be both interesting and useful. The book is additionally fun to read, and the examples are very nice (also the pictures themselves). So no complaint here, either.
  5. The Photographer’s Eye. This is heavyweight. It is very impressive when one sees how many more things there are to photography, than one can tell before studying it in depth. The author, Michael Freeman, is taking the reader through the theory of photography, discussing things such as how the eye moves searching for things in a picture, the science of perception, etc. The style is slightly dull, and often feels like a textbook, but the artwork included is amazing, and the book itself has a very good feeling with its heavy, illustrated paper. It takes some time to read the whole thing, mostly because digesting the information in there is somewhat demanding — for a novice like me, at least. If you are serious about photography, you may want to try it. One note: No technical details are discussed in there (e.g. exposure etc). The book is strictly and exclusively about composition.

One last thing: I recently found out that Bryan Peterson has now published a book, where he distills most of the stuff in his previous books and provides it as a one-suits-all field photography guide. I haven’t read it but reviews are raving, so you may want to check it out too: Understanding Photography Field Guide.