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Panasonic have warned customers of certain (unspecified) non-Panasonic batteries because

“Some of these aftermarket batteries are not equipped with internal protective devices to guard against overcharging, internal heating and short circuit. If these aftermarket battery packs were used, it could lead to an accident causing damage to your camera or personal injury.”

So they issued a firmware update to “detect these aftermarket 3rd party batteries so such serious safety issues can be avoided.” Panasonic then warn the user

“After this firmware update your Panasonic Digital Camera cannot be operated by 3rd party batteries (non genuine Panasonic batteries).”

This smells like Panasonic are locking their customers into (expensive) original Panasonic batteries using DRM techniques. Or is it really a safety issue?

I have yet to hear about burning cameras, but there were and continue to be a number of spectacular battery failures involving cell phones and laptop computers. In all of the cases involving laptop computers, the batteries involved are the batteries sold by the laptop manufacturer.

With cell phones, the manufacturers seem to allege that the battery was either 3rd party or that there had been supply chain fraud, i.e. the battery was forged. I do not recall ever seeing these allegations substantiated. And even Nokia have had to recall millions of genuine batteries because they were failing.

I have been unable to findΒ  any proof – or at least substantiating facts – that 3rd party batteries are more likely to fail than OEM batteries. [If you know otherwise, please share your knowledge.] So, on balance of probabilities, is it likely that there really is a substantial risk to Panasonic customers?

I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know that by putting DRM into their cameras, Panasonic can sell more batteries if customers have no choice to buy cheaper batteries.

If, that is, customers continue to buy Panasonic cameras. A long time ago I decided to stop buying product where the manufacturer is trying to lock me into an expensive closed system. So: no devices that require proprietary MemoryStick or xD cards. No proprietary branded batteries with DRM.

On a lighter note: I guess Apple nail this one squarely – no more replaceable batteries at all. πŸ™‚

We recently received some photos from a family event that were – gasp – made using analog film. You should have seen the look on the face of the dozen or so children when they crowded around the SLR expecting to see a preview on the LCD only to discover that there was no LCD on the back of this camera. Talk about culture shock. πŸ˜‰

Anyways, the quality of the prints was appaling, as where the scanned images on the CD that came from the processing lab. The negative, however, looked fine to my no-longer-used-to-look-at-negatives eyes. I decided to revitalize an old film scanner I still have in a box. It is a rebadged Pacific Imaging PrimeFilm 1800u scanner, which will turn a negative into a 4 Mpxl file with 16 bits per color channel.

I like using VueScan with flatbed scanners. It is a low-cost, high-power solution and Ed Hamrick does a fantastic job of supporting almost every scanner under the sun. My experience so far has been that you plug in the scanner, start VueScan, and start scanning.

With the PF1800u it turns out to be a little bit more complicated than that:

  1. Download the latest driver from Pacific Imaging, an application called CyberViewX_SF. Localized non-english variants are available.
  2. Install the driver at the default location (/Applications).
  3. Find VueScan on your hard drive and Get Info in the Finder. You can do this by using the context menu (right-click or control-click), hitting CMD-I, or File > Get Info in the menu.
  4. Make sure “Open using Rosetta” is ticked (see below).
  5. Connect the scanner to your computer and power it on.
  6. Start VueScan.
"Open using Rosetta" in the Finder "Get Info" panel.

“Open using Rosetta” in the Finder “Get Info” panel.

You can skip steps 3 & 4 if you are using a PowerPC Mac. CyberViewX_SF is a PowerPC application, so Intel Macs need to be told to run PowerPC code because though VueScan is a native Intel application. I wish Pacific Imaging would update their driver!

I had some difficulties because CyberViewX_SF is not in the default install location on my system. In this case, VueScan can not find the driver it needs and complains.

If you – like I – want to put your applications in a non-default place, you can create a soft (or hard) link to it to make VueScan happy:

$ sudo ln -s /Applications/Graphics/CyberViewX_SF /Applications/CyberViewX_SF

where “/Applications/Graphics/” is the location of the CyberViewX_SF folder. That’s it!

Thanks to Ed Hamrick for the great support!


Update: Since Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), Apple has dropped support for PowerPC code. You can no longer install Rosetta, so your scanner is just a paperweight if you switch to 10.7 or later.

If you are old enough, you may remember the “original” IBM PC keyboard from the early 80s (yes, folks, that is 1980s!). The one memorable characteristic of that keyboard is probably the sheer noise of it. Every key press yields a loud, solid “thunk”. I can not help but see a group of product designers before my mind’s eye: “… we have got to make a keyboard that lets the boss know his secretary is working … sounds like a real typewriter … imagine an entire room full of these …” and so on. πŸ™‚

The real reason the keyboard was so loud is the switch technology employed. The bucking spring switch contains a spring that collapses (buckles) under pressure, giving tactile and audible feedback that the key press has been detected. More info in Wikipedia and Clickykeyboard.com.

A lot of people like the tactile feel of the keyboard as well as the ergonomics – apparently the fingers slow down less abruptly than with more modern (and cheaper) switches, so RSI is less of a risk. [I could not find a good source for this claim, so you may want to take it with a grain of salt.]

I happen to to be one of those people, so I went to the people who still make them, a small company called Unicomp, and bought a Customizer 105 with a USB interface and German keyboard layout.

The keyboard hooks up to any computer with a USB port and works like a … keyboard. What did you expect? πŸ™‚

My office now sounds like I have my own secretary typing away at an ancient typewriter as I am writing this. My fingers are wonderful. I love the feel! It is way too early to comment on RSI …

Apparently buckling spring switches last close to forever. My brother uses an original IBM PC model M keyboard to this day … Which means that this keyboard should last me a decade or two. Then again, I have only had one keyboard malfunction mechanically in my entire life and if memory serves correctly, some object falling on it caused the damage. That, I guess, means that I can take mechanical robustness for granted.

Disadvantages? The price is stiff at $69 plus shipping. It is pretty loud. It is not exacly Apple design (it’s apparently made on the very machines that made the original IBM model M). It lacks all of the fancy modern keys for volume control, iTunes playback, optical drive eject, etc. but the most important of the lot, optical drive eject, works by holding down F12.

Do I recommend it? Well, if you think about how much time your fingers spend on a keyboard every day, I would say that almost any amount of money is worth it if it makes your fingers happier. And you can always drown out the sound by turning up the volume in iTunes. πŸ™‚

5 stars (out of 5)

5 stars (out of 5)

Nikon have released a new “serious” compact camera, the Coolpix P6000. This camera – at least on paper – competes directly with the Canon G9. This seems like excellent news.

But then I read this:

COOLPIX Picture Control NRW (RAW) files can only be processed in-camera. NRW (RAW) files are compatible for use in-camera, with ViewNX (Windows version only) or with WIC based applications. Capture NX, Capture NX2 and NEF files are not compatible with NRW (RAW) images.

WIC is Windows Imaging Component, a Microsoft API for Microsoft Windows. In other words: converting RAW files to something else can happen only in camera or on MS Windows.

So what does that mean? Not only does Nikon introduce yet another completely useless RAW format (how hard is it to realize that DNG is the present wave and certainly the future?) they clearly think that Mac users are not to be customers of their fine camera.

It strikes me that Nikon seem to be unable to understand a fundamental fact: as a photographer I want full control over my image files. That is one reason I shoot RAW. I do not want encrypted data in the file. I do not want strange and proprietary formats that reduce my software choices and leave me high and dry in a few years when the special software no longer runs on whatever computer I will have.

I do want an open, fully documented format – such as DNG. Simple as that.

So Nikon, you are quite welcome to spend lots of money on advertising this wonderful new camera, but I will not buy it. Too bad, it seems like a really nice camera that would be very tempting otherwise.

Update: At least Adobe know their stuff and Adobe Camera Raw can now read the raw files from the P6000. Nikon still don’t seem to get it … read the review by Thom Hogan for the entire depressing story.

A reader has an interesting question regarding the Canon G9 and Konica-Minolta A2 comparison:

If you were to switch G9 to a next-down image size (8MP, no?) would it improve a quality of an image?


Would this work in the same camera (the G9) if you merely changed the settings? Would ISO400 look more like ISO 200? Could ISO 800 be used at all? How does it all compare to A2?

Interesting question! Read the rest of this entry »

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