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The Northern Spy
March 2008

In The Picture -- Part II

Rick Sutcliffe

The product of the month,

is still the Canon EOS 40D digital camera. This time the Spy footnotes last month's comments on the camera itself.

Almost everyone who buys an SLR is not content with just purchasing a camera. The same people who accessorize their Macs do likewise for picture-taking gear. Indeed, instruments like the Canon EOS 40D are as much techno toys making a statement about their owners as they are functional devices with the ostensible purpose of recording life.

First up are lenses. The 17-85mm IS (image stabilized) f4.0-5.6 lens that came with this particular kit is all the Spy will use for now. The Canon 70-300 IS lens appears to be the best available addition to this kit, but with an actual range on this item of $525-$700+, he's elected to stay basic for now. BTW, in checking online versus local store prices on these lenses, he found, as for the camera itself, little price difference.

Warning: There are online outfits that consistently advertise prices on cameras and lenses (sometimes even in camera magazines) that are too good to be true. They are. Most of these outfits are really one company that does business under such names as Broadway Photo, A&M Photo World, Regal Camera, Prestige Camera, Preferred Photo, Royal Camera and similar names out of a New York address. (Do not confuse with the very reputable Broadway Camera in Vancouver.)

Typical BP tactics include offering to sell cheaply the body only, then pressuring to upsell lenses and other accessories at vastly inflated prices. If the customer balks, "sales" people become abusive and threatening, goods are not shipped, money is kept anyway, and the customer buys nothing but grief. Check online. You'll find scam warning notices on numerous bulletin boards and rating service, even notes that numerous fraudulent high ratings have been deleted. Never buy a camera or lens online without checking. This is one of the most common playgrounds for fraud artists.

Now, as to other auxiliary items, Canon does sell a kit consisting of a bag, battery grip, extra battery and other odds and ends (contents seem to vary) but the local price was well over $350. This seemed excessive even for The True North Strong and RO, so the Spy turned to eBay, where all kinds of people hawk SLR accessories, especially for the big-selling Canon. It's not hard to find battery packs, for instance, at under $10, vs over $70 for "genuine" Canon parts that could well be produced in the same factory.

The Link-Delight store (see link below) proved to have an interesting collection of such, and the Spy sprang for a lens hood, wireless remote, Hoya filter (67mm for this lens), angle finder, top loading camera bag, and battery grip. Pricing was in GBP and shipping from Hong Kong.

At 4.99 (roughly $10) the filter was probably the best bargain. Even otherwise reputable camera stores sell these for $50-$100, a RO if there ever was one. The bag seems serviceable and rugged and at GBP15.99 also a decent bargain. Most of the other items were careful copies of products Canon itself makes and sells for two to three times as much as Link-Delight and others .

The exception to the copy rule was the battery grip. Like the one made by Canon, this is a box one attaches to the bottom of the camera, and that holds two battery packs (rather than one). It also has a second set of fingertip controls so that the camera can be rotated and still have the same feel and operation in the different position. The Link-Delight version lacks the weatherproofing advertised as a feature of the newest Canon versions, but adds a real time clock and an elaborate timer for making delayed and time exposures on a programmed basis. At GBP51.90 including two battery packs and a wired remote, this adds considerable value at a great price. Recommended.

The Spy's only caveat on Link-Delight is that they do not reduce shipping costs for combined orders, which produces de facto prices higher than those advertised. Searching for alternatives with better shipping policies is at least indicated.

The EOS 40D, unlike most cameras, uses the rather large-format CF cards for memory, and the Spy picked up one of these on sale locally. However, his other gear, and many other camera manufacturers, use SD or SDHC cards instead, which are physically much smaller. He got to thinking there surely must be an adaptor out there that allows SD cards to be plugged into a CF shell.

Sure enough. A minimal search turned up eBay seller Gigacity, which specializes in adapters from one type of memory card to another. The SDHC/SD/MMC to CompactFlash CF Card Adapter Converter was just the ticket, though at $28.95, a little pricey, even for a specialized item. However, it was shipped quickly and does work, so all those SD cards the Spy already has can now serve yet another purpose.

OK, a little more practice outdoors if spring ever comes to the frozen north so we get out of the igloo, and the Spy will be ready for his trip to Ireland later in May.

Speaking of new purchases,

The Spy recently took delivery on a 17 inch MacBook Pro. Once he has it tricked out with maximum memory (never buy from Apple) a couple of docks for home and office, spare battery, carrying case, proper partitioning, and a few software upgrades, he'll report on his impressions. Seems a nice, sleek box at the moment--a worthy replacement for his old 1G TiBook, whose screen is starting to fail and whose hard drive and/or fan is making arthritic noises.

The Black Hat Department

gained another nasty rick this month as someone tried to download a large file from the Spy's download site--thousands of times. This is an apparent denial of service attempt, and the Spy is monitoring his servers, and gradually blocking the IPs that download numerous times in succession.

Still another nasty is the latest Linux intrusion, the random JavaScript toolkit. Means of access are at this point not known, but if you type from a shell "mkdir 1" and get an error (the first time) you may be infected. Another means of checking is to execute from shell
tcpdump -nAs 2048 src port 80 | grep "[a-zA-Z]\{5\}\.js'" and pay close attention to the JavaScripts that are being executed on a web page access. If there are ones you don't recognize as being on your server, chances are you're infected. The malware payload to the browser only goes out once per IP address, so several checks from different machines may be needed. Did I say you should use a Mac to do this so the malware does not affect you?.

You read it here first department

As forecast here many moons ago, Sony has now won this round of the format wars. Toshiba saw the handwriting on the HDTV and threw in the towel this past month. The Sony format gives us more data storage, but was slightly more expensive. Perhaps now we'll get Blu-Rays on all future Macs but at a mass-produced lower price than any seen yet.

One could wonder why Apple doesn't just buy Sony to get into gaming, content, and the winning Blu-Ray. Well, maybe this makes sense to some, but Blu-Ray nonetheless, Apple's a company on the way up with Sony going the opposite direction. Could iSteve transmit the aroma of success to the once belle of the ball, or would he be infected by the failure virus?

The pitter patter of little feats

A big raspberry to the music labels who negotiated terms for their tracks that have allowed Apple to dominate the retail music industry but are now trying to pay hardball for more money for concessions to allow DRM-free songs to be sold on iTunes. You can't legislate against stupidity (the Spy's first law). This may be legal, but....

Also in the small fruit sector, the Blackberry system failure last week could be a wakeup call for some. Given that RIM and Apple may push everyone else out of the Smart Phone market, this has to give busy execs pause about the reliability of the former. Who would you care to bet on in this "format war"?

The Spy notes that Microsoft has made much of a promise to release more software "openly." Indeed, and how many times has the corporation tried to ride that bandwagon with both feet dragging on the ground? Cancel all the patent threats against the real open software and the latest bumph might have a scintilla of credibility.

Apparently iSteve has decided to try again with Apple TV rather than give up as many had suggested he might. The Spy doesn't have broadcast or cable TV and isn't in a position to put a thumb either up or down on this one. Does anybody else care?

Returning to MS for a moment, the Spy wonders why it's trying to buy Yahoo. Merging two mediocre also-ran search engines isn't going to produce a better operation to compete against Google. It's just going to create a larger second-rate, never mind waste 44.7 million smackeroos in the process.

Ho hum

Another quarter, another sales record for Apple, which peddled 2.3M macs and over 22M iPods in the December-ending quarter, and banked another $1.6B. You really gotta find something to buy with all that moola, Steve. How about a small country?

--The Northern Spy

Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Trinity Western University. He's written two textbooks and several novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Bowker's Booksurge.


The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com

The Spy's Laws collected: http://www.thenorthernspy.com/spyslaws.htm

The Spy's Shareware download site: http://downloads.thenorthernspy.com/

WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net

WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net

nameman : http://nameman.net

opundo : http://opundo.com

Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org

Arjay Books: http://www.ArjayBooks.com

Booksurge: http://www.booksurge.com

Fictionwise: http://www.fictionwise.com

Fictionwise: http://www.myworld.ebay.com/link-delight

Fictionwise: http://myworld.ebay.com/gigacity

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Last Updated: 2008 03 04