A while back I wrote that Melissa and I had given up our expensive and ultimately unfulfilling fling with CFL lightbulbs. We must have spent a couple thousand dollars putting them all over the house, but as soon as the ones in the outdoor sconces die off, we’ll be done with them completely. I’ve been experimenting with different brands of LEDs, and Glenn Reynolds’ mention this morning of Cree’s bulbs reminded me to finally write up what I’ve learned.
The first lesson is: Brand counts. When it comes to incandescent bulbs, your better brands tend to last longer but they all produce the same high-quality light we all know and love. LEDs however vary widely. For the purposes of this column, I’m putting halogen bulbs in their own category, even though they too produce incandescent light. We’ll get to them shortly.
We’ve tried four brands of LEDs, with extremely mixed results.
My least favorite — and keep in mind, these are subjective observations but I am very picky about the quality of light in my home — are the bulbs produced by Philips. They look super-modern, which is what drew me to their reflector bulbs for the ceiling cans in my studio. The R30 size looks like the Pan Am spaceship from the orbital transit sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Everything else about them represents the worst of LED lighting. The light they produce has that sickly feeling that screams “cubical” instead of whispering “warm and comfy living room.” The light doesn’t emit evenly from lens, which might not be so annoying if the bulb didn’t stick out from below the can — but it does and so it is. There’s also a good half-second delay between flicking the light switch and when the light can be bothered to come on. It seems to have a very broad dimming range, but the light simply becomes fainter and sicklier and less pleasant the lower you dim it. (We’ll talk more about LEDs and dimming problems in a minute.) The Philips bulbs were also the most expensive. I have one in the studio and two (R20 size) in the bedroom and I can’t wait to ditch them all.
Next up is Feit, which produces a astounding range of LED bulbs. If there’s a size, wattage, or application you can even just imagine, they probably make it. That part is great. The reflector bulbs light perfectly evenly (unlike Philips), and the light is more pleasant. Of all the brands I’ve tested, theirs seem to have the longest power-up delay. But the R20 reflectors produce good-enough quality light for the kids’ rooms, which is nice because little boys don’t always remember to turn off the lights. In fact, this one time one of them might even have remembered. Anyway, Feit’s bulbs are moderately priced and their performance is acceptable — if you can live with that on-delay.
We’ve put EcoSmart bulbs in the garage and in a couple of other rooms, and I’m happy with them. Screwed into fixtures with that mock alabaster glass cover, the light they emit is almost indistinguishable from incandescent bulbs. They come on instantly, too. They dim as well as any LED is able to. At full brightness, they produce a lot of light. We have two of those alabaster-type ceiling fixtures in our laundry room, which used to hold two 60-watt incandescents each. The LEDs are so bright, that I replaced them with two 60-watt equivalent bulbs and two 40-watt equivalents — and then still had to put the whole shebang on a Lutron dimmer. And then I rarely turn the dimmer up more than halfway. So instead of running 240 watts in there, we’re now running maybe 20 watts — did I mention they produce a lot of light? That’s some serious savings, especially for moderately-priced bulbs.
Above is Gal Gadot, recently cast as Wonder Woman in the next big-budget, big-spectacle Superman movie.
Below is Lynda Carter from the cheesy ’70s TV show.
I know which one I buy as an Amazon warrior princess.
Yeah, I’m going to need you all to send me $300,000, maybe $400,000 just to be safe.
And if you’ll click the link, please notice the item description indicates that this is a “non-firing” Han Solo blaster.
This is the newest member of the family, Remy the Pirate Girl. “Remy” because Melissa noticed she has cognac eyes. “Pirate Girl” because that’s what my three-year-old wanted. We’ll get an eyepatch for her for Halloween.
Until just a few weeks ago, Remy was a stray, picked up by Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue. They do great work, and I can’t thank her wonderful foster family enough. She loves the grownups, loves the kids, tolerates the cat, and mostly stays off the sofa when we’re looking.
She’s a good girl.
Always a sucker for a cool new dinosaur find — yes, I am still a seven-year-old boy — I just stumbled across a little (big) something from Ars Technica:
A new fossil of a giant predatory dinosaur has shed light on the North American ecosystem during the Cretaceous period. The new species, Siats meekerorum, is a member of the allosaurs, a group of large predators that predate the tyrannosaurs that dominated later in the Cretaceous. By filling in a gap in the fossil record, Siats has helped paleontologists understand the changes that took pace during the transition between these groups of apex predators.
The fossil of Siats isn’t going to be the centerpiece of a museum display; the bones that are available are largely from the spinal column, accompanied by a few of the limb bones and variety of other fragments. Fortunately, the allosaurs are well known from examples on other continents, and the skeletal fragments show a clear relationship to a specific group of allosaurs called the carcharodontosaurs. This allows the paleontologists who discovered it to infer things about the physical appearance of the body parts that haven’t yet been found.
Although only a juvenile, the beast was probably already 30 feet long and was likely to weigh four tons.
That’s a big puppy.
The Cayenne was one thing, as a sporty entry into a class that already started at a luxury price point, Porsche’s SUV entry found its calling and became an instant player. But with the Macan it’s different. This segment is as mainstream as it gets, and the players in it are decidedly ordinary and for the most part, uninspired. Will it stand out? I have no doubt whatsoever that it will. But I also get the feeling that Porsche is placing itself on the precipice of The Abyss, staring at a product leap that could inexorably alter its future, whereupon it becomes too common and too part of the mindless suburban crawl, or for performance-luxury manufacturers, what’s known as The Dark Side.
That Porsche was once exclusively a maker of sports cars that had a narrowly defined appeal with a hard-core group of enthusiast drivers – both for the brand’s enduring engineering quirkiness and the fact that when driven hard, the cars – the hallowed 911 in particular – demanded a considerable level of skill from its drivers in order to maximize their performance potential – seems like a distantly quaint notion now.
(That link might have gone stale by the time you read this, since De Lorenzo doesn’t use permalinks on his columns until they go into the archives.)
I’m not a Porsche Man. I’ve already owned one five-months-a-year car here in Colorado, and it’s just a silly expense. That’s doubly true since we have two boys to put through college, and I want them to live long enough to get there. It’s one thing to steal the keys to the Mercedes truck one weekend, and quite another to “borrow” the Porsche. But I’ve always been glad to know Porsche Men are out there — guys with the money and skill to buy a challenging sports car and to drive it the way it ought to be driven.
If Porsche ever loses sight of that — their core customers and those of us who are happy just to share the road with them — it’ll be a corporate crime at the capital level.
Mac Rumors has the report:
Following a September report stating that Apple may be working with Quanta Computer to develop a larger-sized iPad, Digitimes is now reporting that the Taiwanese-based manufacturer has landed the contract to mass-produce the tablet for the second half of 2014. Just last week, a report had claimed that the larger iPad was being targeted for an early 2014 launch.
The article also mentions that Quanta is expected to face difficulties when assembling the larger iPad because of its unique industrial design and assembly, which could also lead to constrained supplies:
Quanta is expected to encounter several challenges in terms of industrial design and assembly when making the large-size iPad. And since the size is not the mainstream specification, order volumes are expected to be limited, the sources said.
Leaving aside Digitimes’ (ahem) uneven reputation, that last bit doesn’t really pass the sniff test. Apple is hardly known to expand a product category just to fill a niche with low-volume sales.
I thought Xbox One was the right product marketed correctly. Sony has enjoyed more of a lock on the hardcore gamer audience, even if the PS3 was harder on developers. PS4 looks to have corrected that slight, while keeping the marketing focus (and product specs) on the gamers. Xbox was from the first generation meant to be more of a living room device. To that end the hardware, especially comparing the 360 to the PS3, was made easier for developers to work with. Taking things further with this third generation, the “One” in “Xbox One” is supposed to mean it’s the one device you have to plug into your television. It even offers HDMI In so that the console can act as the go-between with your TV and cable box.
But it all depends on execution, and that’s where things aren’t looking so great at launch time:
After about a week of using these voice commands every chance I could, I found them to be adequate but far from perfect. As evidenced by the above video, the voice commands were accurate about 80 to 90 percent of the time, depending on the command, the clarity of the voice, and the location of the speaker. The one significant exception to this rate was the “Xbox on” voice function, which only registered about 25 to 50 percent of the time when the system was in Instant-On mode. The system didn’t do much worse than normal at picking up commands through crosstalk, occasional stutters, and mumbling, but it occasionally refused to acknowledge slow, deliberate commands.
The 10 to 20 percent of commands that the system either ignored or misinterpreted was right on the line between “annoying but usable” and “frustratingly broken” to me. Having to repeat yourself once every eight or nine times is annoying, sure, but scrolling through a cluttered menu just to find the settings screen is arguably more annoying than saying “Xbox go to settings” even if you have to do it twice.
Reviewer Kyle Orland later says, “It would be nice if the system overall was a bit more forgiving or smarter about how it interprets voice commands as well.” Considering Microsoft has been pushing “natural language” use for years and years, it’s difficult to understand why they can’t make anything nearly as good as Apple’s Siri or Google Now. Another complaint is that it took two hours to transfer one particular game from Blu-Ray disc to the hard drive — and that’s a mandatory process. Apparently you can’t play directly from the removable media with these new-generation consoles. But if you’re going to require players to do that, you must absolutely make it as quick and as painless as possible.
Sony is going to make gamers (and developers) happy with PS4. Microsoft will almost certainly have more than enough high-quality, Xbox-exclusive titles to make the One a success, too. But if they’re going to conquer the whole living room, they’ll have to do better than this.
Maybe the Germans have a word for something which amazes you without shocking you.
The end of the report also stuck out:
Meanwhile, file sharing continued emaciating on many fixed-access networks as streaming video options like Netflix, YouTube, and others proliferate.
File sharing now accounts for less than 10 percent of total daily traffic in North America, down from the more than 60 percent it netted in Sandvine’s first Global Internet Phenomena Report released more than 10 years ago.
Five years ago, it accounted for more than 31 percent.
So it turns out, if you make movies and TV shows readily and easily available at a decent price, people don’t pirate them nearly so much.
That headline is why I’ll never, even if broke and starving, eat Libby’s Potted Meat Food Product. Raiding a Safeway for munchies at 3AM one weekend, one of my hooligan friends suggested I read the label on the little can he was holding up. I did, and then immediately committed that one ingredient to memory, even though I don’t really know what it is, to remind me to never never never ever eat Libby’s Potted Meat Food Product.
See, even when semi-wasted at the tender age of 21 in the wee small hours of the morning, I can read and remember stuff and maybe even make something like a sensible decision. A few years later, I saw on TV exactly what partially-hydrogenated oils were, and right then and there swore off of most junk food, most of the time. They may be yummy, but those trans-fats — well, they’re pretty gross.
But this is what grownups do: We see things; we learn things; we make decisions.
But that’s not good enough for the FDA, which is going to war against trans-fats whether you like them or not:
Under the proposal, which is open for public comment for 60 days, the agency would declare that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, were no longer “generally recognized as safe,” a legal category that permits the use of salt and caffeine, for example.
That means companies would have to prove scientifically that partially hydrogenated oils are safe to eat, a very high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level for consumption of artificial trans fats.
“That will make it a challenge, to be honest,” said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the F.D.A.
They’ll outlaw yummy things because they know better than you. And besides, since ObamaCare and Medicare and Medicaid put all of us in this together, we can’t be allowed to take our own risks — they’ve been collectivized. When we’re all wards of the state, the only ones allowed to be grownups are the politicians and the bureaucrats.
Apropos of nothing, I’d just like to remind you that the Left loves accusing the Right of being “paternalistic.”
There’s a documentary coming, too, which I’ll watch with a big bowl full of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.
H/T, Virginia Postrel.
When I saw the headline to this story, I briefly considered filing it under the silly “News You Can Use” category.
Not after reading the details:
The nightmare began on January 2, 2013. New Mexico resident Eckert was driving out of a WalMart parking lot when he didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign, and was pulled over. Law enforcement thought he was “clenching his buttocks,” and obtained a search warrant from a judge to search his anus for narcotics.
But Eckert’s lawyer is raising concerns about the validity of the search warrant, saying that it was broad and lacked probable cause. In addition, the medical room where Eckert was taken was outside the jurisdiction of the search warrant, making the searches performed on him illegally.
Police from Deming, New Mexico took Eckert to an emergency room to undergo the anal cavity search, but a doctor refused to perform it because it was “unethical,” according to the lawsuit. But a few hours later, doctors agreed to perform the search.
It wasn’t only one search. An x-ray of Eckert found no narcotics. Doctors performed a search of his anus with their fingers. Again, nothing was found. On three separate occasions, doctors inserted an “enema”–a device used to induce bowel movements–into Eckert, and he was forced to defecate. They x-rayed him again. Nothing was ever found.
There really is no end to the depravities of the drug war. I hope this guy takes that department, the individual cops, and the doctors for everything they’re worth.
I have not set foot inside a Blockbuster during this century — and apparently the same was true for just a lot of former customers:
Blockbuster, the video rental chain that’s been pummeled by the rise of digital and on-demand entertainment, said it will close its 300 remaining U.S. stores by early January.
The Blockbuster By Mail service will end in mid-December.
Blockbuster’s current owner, DISH Network Corp., said there will be about 50 U.S. stores operated by franchises not affected by the announcement. But DISH said it is also closing all its U.S. distrubution centers.
Talk about bad management. Blockbuster was late to the party on three new forms of video distribution: mail, internet, and kiosk. They got trounced once by Redbox and twice by Netflix. They were slow to change, apparently figuring that people really liked standing around on cheap carpet under bad lights where the whole world could watch them trying to decide between Mack Chestwell Blows Everything Up Real Good or Bikini Girls III: Revenge of the Sling.
Netflix came along with a nifty web front-end for a mail delivery-and-return rental service. By the time Blockbuster had a decent copy of that, Netflix was busy moving into digital streaming. Where’s that Blockbuster app for your Apple TV? Um… they’ll get back to you on that.
While Blockbuster was spiffying up their stores, the smart folks at Redbox figured out that vending machines could do 80% of what Blockbuster’s stores do, for a fraction of the cost and at an even smaller fraction of the real estate footprint. Easier to move around to hotter retail spaces, too.
Thanks to Redbox and Netflix, watching what you want when you want is far easier than it ever was when Blockbuster was still king.
Now that’s capitalism’s creative destruction at work — and it didn’t require any government mandates whatsoever.
If you fell in love with shooting SLRs before there was a D in front of the name, you might be willing to write Nikon a check for one of these — whatever it is! — sight unseen.
The official announcement comes on Tuesday, and I’m on pins and needles until then.
Did you hear that shutter? Did you hear that dial… that shutter speed dial? Watching that ad I was back in high school again, shooting Dad’s vintage F2A. For what it’s worth, the F2A was possibly the best pre-electronic SLR ever made. It’s a tank. You could drop-kick it into a pile of cinder blocks and it would just keep shooting. Pick one up on eBay for $150, and I promise you you’ll take the best pictures of your life, with nothing more than a aging 50mm f/1.8 lens. Walking is how you frame great shots — not zooming.
I still have Dad’s F2, which hasn’t been shot in 20 years, easy. But I bet if I cleaned it up and dropped a new button battery in, it would shoot every bit as beautifully as it did 35 years ago.
That would certainly be a lot cheaper than buying whatever it is Nikon is showing off in this ad.
But I still want it. Whatever it is.
What to get to go with your 3D printer? A 3D laser scanner, of course.
J.J. Abrams and “Star Wars” veteran Lawrence Kasdan have taken over screenwriting duties on “Star Wars: Episode VII,” replacing Michael Arndt, who was originally hired to pen the project.
“I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a ‘Star Wars’ story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production.”
If it weren’t for Kasdan’s script and Irvin Kershner’s direction, The Empire Strikes Back would have been a Lucas-infested and disappointing sequel. Instead, it’s inarguably the best movie of the original trilogy.
I have a new hope for the upcoming sequels.
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit
That’s from Derek Thompson who asks, “How long can Netflix’s amazing run last?”
But I think that’s the wrong question.
The right question might be, Why is HBO’s subscriber base nearly static?
HBO has seen Netflix grow and grow, yet have clung to their same old model. There was some brief excitement here at Casa Verde when they announced HBO Go, but the excitement quickly subsided when we found out it’s a “halfway pregnant” effort. Even at that HBO Go is available only to existing cable subscribers. Their growth model is… well, it’s there on the chart.
Who in their right mind thought Darren Aronofsky was the right director to helm a Biblical epic? I always enjoy a new Aronofsky movie, but I’m honestly waiting with glee for the stinktastic box office results on this one.
Maybe I’ll eventually put Noah in the Netflix queue for one of our “Must Have Cocktails for This One” movie nights.
Oh, good — now Microsoft is going to further muddy the waters of their mobile computing efforts:
Microsoft tablets, both its own Surfaces and those from third parties and both those running Windows 8 and Windows RT, have been hobbled by software that just doesn’t fit touch devices very well. The upcoming Windows 8.1 improves matters by reducing the frequency with which users have to resort to the traditional Windows Desktop UI, but it can’t change the fact that this is an operating system with mice and keyboards and a traditional desktop file system at its heart, with a lot of touch features bolted on. This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that the features Microsoft counts on to distinguish its tablets, such as keyboard in the ability to run Desktop Office, define them as ultralight PCs, not true tablets.
The enhancements to Windows Phone only confuse things further. It is entirely possible that coming months will see Windows Phones with 6″ displays next to Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets with 7″ screens. For devices this close in size to be running different and incompatible operating systems is a recipe to deepen the bafflement of customers, OEMs, and software developers.
The stupid, it hurts.
Windows Phone 8 is a perfectly good platform. It’s doing so-so in Europe, and has a few diehard users in the US. Not enough, but Nokia is making solid devices running a fine mobile OS. They beat the hell out of most of the crapulent el cheapo phones running Android. I believe there’s room in the market for a third mobile OS to be at least moderately successful. And if anybody has the deep pockets and stubborn sticktoitiveness to make that happen, it’s Microsoft.
(Room for four mobile operating systems, if you include Amazon’s long-rumored cellphone using its custom Kindle fork of Android.)
But I swear Redmond’s unwanted, unloved, ill-conceived Surface tablets are squashing half the life out of Windows Phone.
A nature photographer takes his iPhone 5S to Patagonia — and no other camera. The results are pretty impressive.
No fooling, the 5S might be the best camera ever for taking pictures of the boys. I can snap ten frames a second, choose the best one, delete the rest with a single swipe — and all in camera. The big Nikon still gets hauled out for portraits and (linked story not withstanding) nature trips, and any time I’m shooting in low light. But otherwise, it’s all iPhone, all the time.
Here’s a snapshot I took just this morning of some of the fall colors coming into our back yard. I haven’t edited, retouched, or cropped this at all — just used the phone’s built-in (and instantaneous) High Dynamic Range. Click for the full-size image and enlarge in your browser window if you need to, and you’ll see the sharpness is pretty impressive.
That’s as much detail and more color than I used to get out of my then-current Nikon D200 just six or seven years ago. The only thing my current Nikon D7000 does better is shoot in low light, provide more megapixels, and change lenses. It can shoot only 4.5 frames per second to the iPhone’s ten, with a buffer limit of about 15. If the iPhone has a buffer limit, I’ve yet to hit it. It seems to be able to shoot 10FPS, every second, until you completely fill the memory.
Hot-dam, but if you’re chasing kids around that’s the greatest thing ever.
Even the front-facing camera produces decent results under crappy conditions. Since I take the boys to school most mornings, I cram the three of us into the frame for a three-man selfie to text to Melissa. The sun is coming in at a bad angle, everybody is trying to squeeze down to the level of Nate’s car seat, we’re in a rush — but the phone still does a passable job.
This shot is also unedited — just cropped to square and resized for your browser.
Then there’s the iOS version of iPhoto. It’s hands down the best general-purpose photo editing software for mobile, and plenty powerful enough for editing the kinds of pics you’ll take with your phone. That means I spend way less time alone at my desk, poking around with Aperture or Photoshop.
If I were Canon or Nikon, I’d be getting plenty worried about what cellphones are going to be doing just a couple of years from now. With phones this good, there’s no reason for anyone other than pros and dedicated hobbyists to own an SLR. And you can forget about point-and-shoots. They were always pretty lousy; now they’re also redundant.
Me, I’m going to enjoy hardly ever having to carry a camera bag around, and missing fewer shots of my overactive kids. And I’m going to enjoy it with one of these.
WSJ sat down with The Wolf of Wall Street director Martin Scorsese, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. Here’s something from the intro:
In theaters next month, the glitzy, audacious blockbuster is based on real-life rogue trader Jordan Belfort’s memoir of his 1990s pump-and-dump flameout, during which he launched the infamous Stratton Oakmont “boiler room” brokerage, inflicted over $200 million of losses on investors and sunk a 167-foot yacht—all on his way to a federal indictment for securities fraud and money laundering and 22 months in prison. (Belfort is currently working toward building a career as a motivational speaker and paying $110 million back to investors.) The film will be the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio, following Gangs of New York, The Departed, The Aviator and Shutter Island. And by all accounts, filming it was an act of deep mutual trust: their most adult, debauched project to date. “[Our relationship has] evolved in the sense that with every new picture, we get to know each other a little better, trust each other a little more and go a little further,” says Scorsese.
Shutter Island left me cold, just because of the theme, but The Departed is probably the best mobster movie of the Naughts. Really looking forward to this next flick.
Windows Phone 8 is getting a nifty new feature:
Something that may appeal to motorists: a new Driving Mode will automatically silence incoming calls and texts so that you can focus on the road. You also can configure the feature to automatically send out a reply to say that you’re driving.
It can be activated automatically when the phone is linked wirelessly with a Bluetooth device in the car, such as a headset. Apple has a Do Not Disturb feature for iPhones, but that needs to be turned on manually.
What the Driving Mode won’t do, however, is block outgoing calls or texts. And there will be ways to override it. The feature won’t stop a teenager from texting while driving, but it will help reduce distractions for those who want that, says Greg Sullivan, director for Microsoft’s Windows Phone business.
During six years of iPhone use over three different models, I had to turn off the “Ask to Join Networks” feature under WiFi — and leave it off. Every time I drove somewhere, it would pick up local WiFi routers for just a few seconds each, and ask me each and every time if I wanted to join them. The popups were a noisy nuisance. The M7 motion chip in the new iPhone 5S tells the phone when it thinks you’re driving, and automatically stops hunting for WiFi networks for the duration of the trip. I like that a lot, and have switched “Ask to Join Networks” back on for the first time since 2007.
But this Windows Phone feature would be a very nice addition to iOS 7.1.