Friday, November 21, 2008

Butterfly - Personal Time

It's pretty hard to have some personal time when you have your own family. However, it's still possible.

As an amateur astronomer, I still try to go out after all the kids slept, and then I will try to rush back home before they usually wake up. Of course, this could be really hard, but then it's still possible.

And there's some easier way. For example, when my daughter is having interest class, I will usually try to bring her there if I am on leave, and then before I picked her up, I can walk around and have some personal time, too. I have tried to do solar imaging outside, I have tried to take photographs, etc.

This time, my daughter is having a piano class at home, and then I took my camera outside to have a 30 minutes walk, here is what I got:-

It's not something special, but to me, it's good enough to have some personal time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Macro extension tube testing

Nothing special, just to try it out. Light source is always a problem so I took some brighter objects, using ISO 1600, but I was too lazy to setup a tripod, so the focus is not very good and you can see the shake!

It's one of the LEDs of my cable modem.

It's a switch, nothing special.

Last Day

Last day means a departure from your comfort zone.

Last day means a termination of certain relationships.

Last day means reaching a certain goal.

Last day means leaving some people alone.

Last day means running for another goal.

Last day means a beginning of certain relationships.

Last day means going for new challenges!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Free lighting?

Recently, my home building is having some renovation work on the drainage pipes. With the overhead work, and to avoid "unwanted people" to go inside our home via these mesh of bamboo, they placed quite a number of spot light around.

This is my living room window at late night, I didn't turn on my own light. You could see that it's actually enough even to read newspaper.

The kitchen is even worst, you can cook without turning on a light. Luckily, none of my sleeping rooms are affected.

As an amateur astronomer, we knew that there are some research work which shows that excessive lighting might actually increase theft instead of decreasing them. But I'm pretty confident that this type of lighting is another story altogether. Anyway, I just hope that it will finish really soon.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

NAS is getting popular in office and at home, for they're small, convenient and probably suitable for small offices when they have no MIS person.

I got a chance to try out a model from Taiwan:

It features a 500MHz+ CPU with 256M memory. Obviously it's running Linux inside, you have so many features, and some of them are truely attractive.

The casing is made of metal. Installation of a SATA hard drive is simple and secure, the mounting is made with excellent fit and finish. The casing serves as a big heat sink and you can actually feel the warmth. It comes with a backup software and it works quite nice.

The performance is not great, but it's enough for normal users. If you have more than 10 active clients, I would recommend you to look for something else. Having said that, it's stable even under relatively high loading.

The bottomline is that, it's really convenient and powerful for a home user.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Modifying a ceiling light

Disclaimer: Don't try to follow the steps here if you are unsure and feel even a very slight hesistation about doing all these work. It could be extremely dangerous or even fatal if you are not properly trained. Household electricity is not a joke, so please consult trained technicians and asked them to do it for you.

Before doing anything, switch the power off and test before placing your hand on any of the wires. Some very poorly connected wires can still carry electricity even when switched off! So, be extremely careful.

First question: why?

It's simple, if you ever used a similar ceiling light like the one below, you will know why. This is some very old technology, you have a transformer inside, you have a starter, and if you have circular big tube light inside. If any one of them gone wrong, it won't even turn on. Frequent failure is the prime motive! Nowadays when energy saving light bulb is so cheap and popular, it does not make sense to use this kind of old technology any more!

As you can see in the picture below, I have highlight a screw in which the transformer is attached. You actually have two screws like this, one on each side, and you can use any one of those for fixing the light bulb socket.

First of all, remove all those old technologies:-

Then attached the light bulb socket there in any one of the fixing screws, since they're originally decided to fix a heavy transformer, the small socket with the small light bulb is definitely fine:-

Connect the wires, nothing can go wrong since it's alternating current:-

Done! It's now so simple and elegant, you have a single light bulb to go wrong. You can switch to a higher power one to have a brighter room, you can easily replace damaged bulb, and it's instant on as well!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Extension tube for macro photography

Another item which I ordered from Deal Extreme is a Canon macro extension tube. This one is truely cheap and you don't have to consider before buying one. The closest alternative should be the one from Kenko and the Kenko is a step up from this one for sure, since the Kenko will allow you to change aperture, and it also retains the auto-focus ability of the lens. Of course, it comes with a price. Guess what, the Kenko is 10 times more expensive! That's why I buy this one without any thought.

To adjust the aperture, you can put the lens on your DSLR without the extension tube. Set the aperture of your lens (say in Aperture Priority mode), then press-and-hold the deep of field preview button on the camera, and then remove your lens at the same time. Done.

To adjust the focus, remember to switch your lens to manual focus mode, and you can do it by hand. People always said for macro photography, manual focus is always desirable. Simple, right.

For macro photography, we are interested to know the magnification of your setup. I've found a method to find out the magnification here. To skip all the detail, here we goes:

1. Find out the original magnification of your lens here.

Suppose we are using a 50mm f1.8 II lens, the maximum magnification is 0.15

With this value, we can calculate the effective built-in extension (X) by solving this equation:

X / 50 = 0.15

So, we have the value of X = 7.5mm

And now the new magnification is the length of your extension tube.suppose it's 25mm so the new effective extension will be X + 25 = 32.5mm

So, put the value back into the magnification equation:

Maximum Magnification = 32.5 / 50 = 0.65

Simple? Yes!

Here are some of my first shots:

An illuminating switch:-

Guess what?

That's it, the same lens without the extension tube:-

All hand held, and very rough focusing.

Bulk pack battery from Deal Extreme

This is my first order, items are quite nicely packed and it arrived pretty quickly, too.

In this order, I bought two packs of cheap battery:

They are LR44 and CR2032, and they are probably the most common models. As you could see, these are big packs and I expect that they can last for years. Given they are so cheap, it's good to keep some at home and when they're needed, I can always find them immediately.

Highly recommended.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Three Little Pigs - Core value of a family

From the story of the three little pigs, you can see the importance of the core value of a family.

The first significant core value is diligence. The mother advised the little pigs that the world outside could be very dangerous, and they have to be hard working, to build themselves a secure home so that they can protect themselves. Of course, diligence is not something you can really teach, this is something which the receiver has to exercise themselves. It is more like an attitude than some form of knowledges that you can own, but it's more like your being. From the examples of the three little pigs, they exercise different degree of diligence. Whether that's enough or not, depend also on what you will actually face. A straw house could be strong enough if you just want a shelter under the sun, a brick house could be insufficient if you meet a strong earthquake but a straw house can survive you otherwise!

The second core value is cooperation, or the family relationship, or the brotherhood among the three little pigs. Obviously when they face big challenges, they will seek help from each others! This is again, not something that can be given, but it's more like a transfer of the "culture" of the parents, and when they're small at home. I would say this is the real core value of their family. Since no matter how the reality turns out, the brotherhood, a great family relationship, is going to help! Wisdom might not, diligence might not, but great relationship always help!

This is love.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Drain Pipe Opener

It's actually a strong acid which is used to dissolve all kinds of stuff stucked inside the pipe, like hair, cloth, tissues and whatever normally water insoluble stuff.

Today I used one bottle again, and I found the U-tube was very hot. This bottle seems stronger than the others, for the smell, and the sound was both stronger. And on the bottle, it shows that it's the enhanced version, no wonder why. The U-tube was so hot to touch even with a glove. I was a kind of worrying.

After I guess around five minutes, I went inside the kitchen and checked again... what a mess! The U-tube cap was on the floor... obviously, it was heated by too much that it expanded and thus got loose from the upper threaded pipe! I used two layers of gloves and a lot of newspaper to suck up the mess... and then I used a lot of water to clean the floor... the floor was very clean afterward, you know, those were very strong solvent, able to clean virtually all kinds of dirty stuff and stain!

Just be extremely careful when you use this kind of strong acid, everything can happen!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thailand Style Curry Crab

My wife heard from our colleagues that Thai Curry Crab is very nice, so we went out to try. The shop is located at the basement of Pioneer Center (始創中心) in Mongkok. Other than the crab, we ordered a couple of other dishes and they are all quite nice.

The place is clean and tidy, and comfortable, even for my kids. For nice curry like this, we shall have some garlic bread but it seems unavailable. So, we got plain rice instead.

Later, the colleague of my wife went there to try, and she reported that the quality is great as well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Canon DSLR Eyecup

Last weekend, I managed to lost mine. This thing is not exactly loose, but it could be detached accidentally without big problem, and it's not uncommon. I searched some local photography forums and there are simply so many people to have a few of them dropped over a few years of active usage.

There are some third party cheaper alternative in ebay, but they are not a lot cheaper. Today, I got one from a shop near my office during my lunch break, and it's selling at $70 HKD, i.e. less than $10 USD, not too expensive especially considering that it's an original accessory, right?

Actually, the camera works without this thing, but of course, you would want it back just to make the camera look more decent.