Self Portrait

Took a picture of myself during work

Self portrait during work.

Self portrait during work.

SSD and SSD on Steroids (RAID 0)

SSD (Solid State Drives) is FAST, and everybody knows that, but what happens when your put it in RAID 0 Mode? Well as most of you might think the speed doubles. Well in my system I have 3 SSD Drives in RAID 0 Mode, which I was surprised to find out tripled the speed.

ATTO Bench Mark Utility

Benchmarking 3 SSD Drives in RAID 0 Mode with ATTO benchmark utility

So what are the numbers?

That 1620987 is 1,620,987 Bytes/s which is 1,600MB/s or 1.6GB/s transfer rate. Your average high end Samsung SSD is 480MB/s – 500MB/s

Copyright Laws 101

In the United States, when the photos are taken then the photographer owns the copyright to the photos. The copyright owner (photographer) has the right to control a list of things, including:
(a) who gets to reprint the photos,
(b) who gets to make derivative works of the photos (such as a painting of a photo),
(c) who gets to sell copies of the photos, and
(d) who gets to display the photos publicly.
It is more customary now that you can pay an extra fee to the photography to buy a copyright license (i.e, permission to do one of the things in (a) through (d)). Usually that license is just for the right to reprint the photos (i.e., use the photos for personal use, such as on Christmas cards or in a wedding photo book). The reason for this fee is that the photographer will lose out on the money that you would have paid her for the prints. Since one of the rights of the photographer is to sell copies and another right is to publicly display the photos, the couple and the photographer can also negotiate how the photographer will be limited in these activities. For a fee, the couple is purchasing those rights (and not just a license) away from the photographer. Sometimes this will not be an additional price in the contract, but it is understandable if the photographer wants to charge a fee for this, to make up for what the photographer otherwise would have made commercially on the photos.

The Major Food Companies

Have you ever wonder where do all the products at your local supermarket come from? You wonder that because of so much competition everything must be super good. Well, it turns out that there are only a handful of companies that control the whole market and the rest are their subsidiaries. Check out this diagram I found on the net.

Food Company Chart

How Hot Is That Chili Pepper?

This is the Scoville Scale which I find very interesting. From time to time I want to refer to this index because I’m curious to see how spicy that chili pepper is. If you want to know more about it you can read it on Wiki Page

Scoville Index

Can I get all the RAW images?

Raw vs JPEG

I get this question asked quite a lot and half the time people don’t really mean or understand what RAW means. However, this post is not aimed at those who actually do know the difference.

“Can I get all the RAW images?”
What people really mean is if they can have all the pictures that I took during their event unedited and even the bad ones that the flash didn’t go off or somebody jumped in front of the camera when I took the shot including all the rest of the bad shots. TO most people that I deal with that’s what RAW images are.

Now, let’s talk about what RAW truly means…

I’m going to use the definition from Wikipedia, and according to them

A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, image scanner, or motion picture film scanner. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor. Read more about RAW file format

So if I were to give my client the RAW format they won’t be able to do much with them unless they have Adobe LightRoom or Adobe Photoshop. Files produced from my Canon cameras end with .CR which will be unrecognized file format on most computers. Additionally the data would be so large that you would need a large external hard drive to fit all the pictures in. An average wedding would be well over 30GB in size.

Having said all this I’ve had people who knew what RAW file are and new exactly how to handle those files. People who know what RAW really means ask the question differently. They ask “Can I have all the images in RAW?” And my answer is always YES.

There is always someone…

I saw this online and found it to be very true especially in my field of Wedding Photography, and so I decided to share…

cheaper

Amazing View from International Space Station (ISS)

 

You’ll have probably noticed by now that the Sun doesn’t set in the video, but instead goes round and round. This is because when the video was shot, the ISS was orbiting parallel with the Earth’s terminator line. The terminator (not Schwarzenegger, this time), or twilight zone, is the moving line that separates day from night on an object illuminated by a star.

The location of the terminator changes depending on the season. When the ISS lines up with the terminator it dodges the shadow from the Earth and consequently the crew onboard the satellite get an unfathomable view of the Sun.
The ISS orbit only aligns with the terminator a couple of times per year, around one of the solstices, so this footage is pretty unique.

Power of SSD Drives and Gigabit Ethernet

I was never able to utilize the full capacity of a Gigabit (1000Mbps) Ethernet connection up until now.  The way I was able to do that was to have two computers with SSD (Solid State Drive). Then I copied data from one computer to the other. Just see for yourself…

 

Gigabit (1000mbps) LAN connection at 99% utilization

Gigabit (1000mbps) LAN connection at 99% utilization

In the past whenever I transferred data to either a network storage, server or simply another computer there was a bottleneck. And the bottleneck used to be either the source or destination drive because more than likely the device had a regular disk storage. Currently my desktop PC has Corsair Force GT SSD drive, and my laptop has a Samsung SSD. In essence I’m going from SSD over a Gigabit Ethernet to another SSD.

In the past the most I got out of a Gigabit Ethernet was 50-60 MB/s. But now you can see that I was able to achieve 116 MB/s. That’s maxing out the Gigabit Ethernet.  Is my Gigabit LAN the bottleneck now?

Rotating JPEG’s without loss in quality

Rotating JPEG’s without loss in quality
Up until today I was hesitant to rotate my photos right after downloading them from my camera. The reason was that rotation is considered editing, and every time you edit JPEG file loose quality.

JPEGNow after doing some research I found out that I was wrong all along. If the dimensions of the image are multiples of 8 then the rotations are lossless. Otherwise it is not possible to rotate the image without recomputing the blocks which re-compresses the image and quality is lost.

Guess what… whichever resolution you pick (small, medium or large) on your camera dimensions are divisible by 8. WOW… AND THIS IS TRUE FOR ANY CAMERA MANUFACTURER. So no more keeping the pictures unrotated. Oh, this is true for Windows and Macs built in picture viewer. I’m sure it will be true for other viewers as well.

My Work On Display

Pasadena’s Old Town public parking had a billboard ad displaying my photography.

Pasadena

My photography being used in a parking lot billboard ad.

Adobe Encore: Rendering Video with 8GB of RAM

In my earlier blog posts True Power of Your PC I stated that I’m able to do practically everything with only 4GB of RAM. That’s still is true, however yesterday I noticed that my current system which has 8GB of RAM is still running out of memory when rendering the video with Adobe Encore.

Some background info about my computing habits. I always turn the Virtual Memory off to actually see at what point in time does the physical memory run out. Obviously it’s not an issue, and I never run out of memory on day-to-day computing otherwise I would never turn the Virtual Memory off nor would I recommend anyone to do so. Running out of  memory starts happening during memory/RAM intensive operations such as video editing, Photoshop, virtualization, gaming, compiling/development and so on.

Memory-UseNow, how is it that my old system with 4GB or RAM and my new system with 8GB or RAM behave the same.  What I mean by this is that both systems were able to run the application without the Virtual Memory and both systems reported running out of memory somewhere in the middle of the rendering?

Looking at the picture you can see that all available memory has been taken and the screen shot looks very similar to the screen shot from the 4GB of RAM system. My understanding is that Adobe will take as much free memory as possible even though it doesn’t absolutely need it. My assumption is that if I had 16GB or RAM I would have still gotten the same error message at around 20% into the rendering.

At first thought I’m going to assume having more memory helped Adobe Encore finishing the job faster, but I don’t have any facts to support that. My current system renders twice as fast but obviously it’s not because of the memory. My new system is a completely new system with Intel i7 2600K CPU overclocked to 4.8GHz. On the other hand my older system as an AMD Phenome II X4 940 Black Edition running un-overclocked with the original specs. So there is no way for me to tell if the extra 4GB of Ram is making any improvement except that it’s a 8GB vs 4GB.

Home Intel i7 2600K

Cooling Down Your Intel i7 2600K CPU
I was never big on Overclocking the CPU, simply because it was not worth the compromise. I didn’t think 10-15% performance increase is worth losing the stability of your system.

But Intel’s new P67 chipset along with i7 2600K CPU make it worthwhile simply because there are no compromises. Both the CPU and the Motherboard (Fatal1ty P67 Performance) were designed from ground up to be overclocked. In fact it would be stupid to not Overclock the system.

System with original Intel CPU Cooler

The amount of gain in performance is a bit subjective, and is a topic of its own, but regardless; if you got nothing to lose why not do it.

I was able to Overclock successfully with the stock (original) CPU fan that came with the Processor. But running some tests and benchmarks I noticed that my CPU is running hotter than usually when it’s under full load. And this is when I decided to upgrade original CPU fan that came with it.

By the way, CPU originally was set to 3.4GHz, and I bumped it up to 4.8GHz without any – and I mean absolutely any lockups, crashes or any issues.

Here you can see the difference between the original CPU Fan and the aftermarket one made by CoolMaster which happens to be a very reputable brand in the market. This think cost me $38, which is not a bad deal. In fact it was a “Most Bang for the Buck” in my opinion.

Here it is on NewEgg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103099

 

Here is the rear view:

Now my CPU is way cooler than before. Now with this new CPU Cooler I’m thinking of going a bit further with the overclocking. I think I can bump it up to 5GHz. Online forums say that people successfully overclock i7 2600K to 5.2GHz. But I doubt that this new CPU Fan could handle 5.2GHz. I think I need one of those really expensive ones or even a Water Cooling system which go as high as $150 to $200. I’ll think about it.

PC Imaging

Symantec Ghost is the number one software used for mass image deployment in enterprises. There are many others tools, including free and open source, but Ghost by far is number one.

Sysprep is a utility developed by Microsoft to facilitate the mass image deployment process.
What sysprep does is creates unique SID (Security ID) for each computer upon next boot up, which guarantees that each computer will be unique on the network.

The following two links talk more about sysprep and give more details about the usage and best practices:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb457073.aspx
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/302577

The purpose of this article is to give you and overview and to clarify the image deployment process as a whole, and not go into details and theories.  I assume that you have a ghost boot disk and know how to create a simple image using Ghost. Also note that Windows 7 Deployment process is completely different and this article mainly refers to windows XP, however  you can use it for Windows 7 too.

Here we go:
1.Get the system ready:

  •  Prepare a system by installing all the necessary software and settings.
  •  Configure and customize the Operating System using local group policy editor (i.e. gpedit.msc) or however method you are more comfortable with.
  •  Perform Windows Updates. It’s important not to deploy an outdated OS, otherwise windows will want to update itself right after deployment. Don’t waste your time, your user’s time and most importantly your company bandwidth.
  • Clean up after yourself either manually or by running a utility such as Ccleaner. This is a safe and trusted software. This step is really important because you leave your marks when you downloaded drivers, ran commands, tested software and so on. You want your image to be clean, and most importantly not to have junk temporary files and MRU (Most Recently Used) entries in the registry and all over the system.
  • Configure the Default user profile. This is where you control how the users sees and experiences the computer when they first login to the system. Set it according to your company’s needs and not Microsoft’s default Icon arrangements and look.

2. Create a Un-Syspreped image: I do this extra step because in the future I might want to adjust and update my image. In order not to repeat the first step that I described above I image the system right after the first step. I call this Un-Syspreped Image.

3. After the Un-Syspreped image creation is finished reboot the system and run sysprep. When you run sysprep the system will shut down on its own. MAKE SURE NOT TO TURN THE SYSTEM ON. LEAVE IT OFF.

4. Create the Syspreped image by imaging the system that just turned off right after the sysprep process. This is the image that will be deployed to other computers.

At this moment you should have two images; Un-Syspreped and a Syspreped. You deploy the Syspreped image to other computers, and upon reboot the computer will go through its initial setup process which asks for Name, Organization, PC Name and so on.
So when do you use the Un-Syspreped Image?
In the future you might want to update your image. There would be many-many reasons why you would want to update an image. Here are some of them:
•      Adding new software
•      Upgrading software
•      Removing software that are no longer used
•      Updating Windows
•      Fixing problems
•      And my favorite is when you forget and turn on the syspreped system without imaging

In this article I assumed that you know how to create a Ghost Boot Disk that appropriate for your environment and you know how to image a system with ghost. I also assumed that you know how to create the answer file and know how to use Sysprep in general.

http://www.gasparian.us

Adobe Photoshop’s New Magic Trick

New Photoshop will un-blurr your blurry picture. Simply amazing. Check out the Demo from Adobe.
http://tv.adobe.com/watch/max-2011-sneak-peeks/max-2011-sneak-peek-image-deblurring/

True Power Of Your PC

What is a Fast Computer, and do you really need one?

There are many applications, and special needs that require fast computer processors. I edit videos, and to me rendering portion is where the true power of CPU comes in handy; rest of the time it not as relevant. Faster CPUs such as Intel’s i7 Core will surely help you finish rendering your project sooner.

Notice how I’m using 5.25GB out of my 6GB or RAM. Today many systems come with 4, 8 and even 16GB of RAM. Don’t fall for all the Marketing that goes on out there stating that you need this and that. Without getting too technical, 4GB or RAM is plenty for the average to advanced user.

Right now I’m using Google Chrome, taking screen-shots, cropping them and composing this e-mail in Gmail while the video is being rendered in the background. I don’t see any lag, and I’m able to use the system as if nothing is running in the background. All this happens with a discontinued 3 year old CPU, that’s right, a 3 year old CPU.

Without contradicting myself, I also would like to mention that having 4GB of RAM isn’t enough, and that 8 or more Gigabytes of memory is a must if you do Video Editing while doing 3D Animation, while you have AutoCAD project open and to top it off will be running VMWare with multiple Operating Systems. If all this sounds familiar then my recommendation would be to get at least 16GB of RAM. For everyone else out there stick to the Low end Bargains that the Black Friday offers with only 2 to 3 Gigs of RAM.

Medicine: Generic or Brand

Many people get fooled at the local drug store when they are buying over-the-counter medicine.  A good example of this would be Tylenol.  I constantly get into arguments with friends and relatives about this subject, but there are people who refuse to believe that the Generic Version of Tylenol – a drug called Acetaminophen – is the same things as Tylenol.

Over the counter pills

Common belief is that something cheaper must be less effective, but that is not true.  It’s the same.

Here are some of the Generic Brands of Acetaminophen out there: Walmart has its Equate brand for all the generic medicine, Costco has Kirkland, and the rest such as Target, Kmart, RiteAid, CVS and Walgreens just have their Logo and the word Acetaminophen on the box.

Now the same goes for Advil or Motrin. Any time you see Advil or Motrin, just look to the right  and you’ll see the Generic version called Ibuprofen. Both Advil and Motrin compete to make people think that their drug is more effective than the other, but both companies are lying. Be smart about it; save yourself some money and get the Ibuprofen.

I talked about Tylenol, Advil and Motrin, but the same is true for Excedrin, TheraFlu, Robitussin, Benadryl and the rest of the popular over-the-counter stuff you can find at your local pharmacy.

Active Ingredients: This the key to really understand what’s going on. It doesn’t matter what the commercials say, or what the ads claim, it’s the Active Ingredient what matters. Check for your self. Flip the box around and ready what’s in your Medicine. If the active ingredients are the same then they are the SAME. Excedrin for example is a little bit of Tylenol, a little bit of Aspirin, and Coffee. That’s it.

This is not a medical opinion or a scientific result, but if you were to take a Tylenol, some Aspirin, and drunk a cup of coffee you should get the same result as Excedrin. Now, I’m not suggesting you to start doing that because the dosages are completely different, but the physical medicine that goes into your system are the same.

Got Cashback From Your Credit Card?

What motivated me to write this blog was when my friend purchased a stereo system using the points he earned from his credit card. He was so excited to share the new that the $180 system cost him Zero dollars because he used the Rewards Points that he accumulated over the past year.

Well, I was happy for him too except that after doing a quick online search I found that his stereo system was only $110, and that if he cashed out his rewards points he could have bought the same stereo system online and still have $70 in his pocket.

I think the whole “Rewards Store” is a scam. They jack up the price, and people overpay for items that could otherwise be bought for a lot less.

My Advice… Always, and I mean always get your cash. This is true for any credit card rewards program whether its a frequent flier miles or anything else out there.  People argue that the travel miles are great, and my counter argument is the following: when it’s time to travel and you are getting ready to start looking into buying tickets you are faced with so many restrictions such as availability, prior scheduling and flight times that you rather not use your miles. Hey, don’t you wish you cashed out and now you could have spend that money on the ticket itself (yes, you would have paid 15-25% more) without the hassle of restrictions.

Baby Formula

Baby Formulas Compared

Should you overspend for the popular brand? Or, are they all the same?

When my first baby was born, I received a gift basket from the hospital while we were at the hospital. I thought that was very nice of them, and it was cute at the same time.

In there I found some baby literature, a small can of Enfamil and some coupons. Well, the natural reaction was that Enfamil is the brand the hospital recommends, and that’s the brand we should go with.

Few months passed and my baby stopped breastfeeding and we slowly switched to formula. Not knowing anything I picked up Enfimil, but one thing that caught my attention was the price. It was the MOST expensive one, at least by 25% more. But Hey, we all want the best for our babies, don’t we?

Few days passed and I visited my Local Costco to get some Formula again. This time I noticed that right next to Enfimil there is the Costco’s Kirkland brand for less than half the price. That’s right, Enfimil was $34.99 and Kirkland was $17.99, and Kirkland’s Can was larger by 2 ounces. Well, I didn’t know what to do, and per my wife’s advice we cannot switch baby formula for some reason. You know what… I said screw it, I’m going for it.

A week later we went to the doctor and we asked the doctor what her recommendation is, and if Kirkland is a good brand for baby formula, and her reply was:

To be honest, it does not matter since the manufacturer who produces for Costco could very well be Enfimil or Similac itself. It just that it’s packaged for Costco. And even if it’s not Enfimil or Similac it’s a company that makes baby food which is heavily controlled by the FDA. So don’t worry about anything.

Right after that day we switched to Kirkland Signature Baby Formula and our baby didn’t even notice a difference as oppose to what’s being advertised.

Go ahead and saver yourselves some money, don’t cave in and don’t be intimidated by all the marketing propaganda that is being spread by the big corporations and their brands.

Costco Membership: Worth It?

Costco Member CardThis might sound like a Promotional Ad for Costco, but it’s not. The only reason I want to write this piece is because I was discussing it with my cousin the other day whether it’s worth signing up for a Costco Membership or not.

Before I give my answer let me say that if you live around a Costco warehouse that also has a gas station then it is a no-brainer, and that not getting the membership would literally be stupid. Why? Because Costco gas is about 15-20 cents cheaper than the rest of the gas stations out there (well, except Arco, but I’m going to leave Arco out of the competition because Arco does not accept Credit Card, which could potentially turn in to Reward Points and cashback, and most importantly it is very very inconvenient to pay with cash).

Now Having said that Costco gas is 15-20 cents cheap translates to a lot of savings. Let’s calculate this…

An average car has a 17 gallon gas tank. That means that every time you do a full tank fill up you could be saving from (17 x $0.15 to 17 x $0.20) $2.25 to $3.40. Wow, that’s a lot of money if you think about it. How many times a month do you fill up? At least twice if not three times. Ok, let’s calculate it with twice a month which turns out to be 24 times a year.

24 x $2.25 = $54
24 x $3.40 = $81.60

I’m sure everybody knows how much a costco membership is. It’s $50 for a year. Well, if you don’t use any of their services, and if you don’t buy anything from them just the savings from filling up your gas there will pay for the $50 membership fee.

This calculation was done based on the fact that your car’s gas tank is 17 gallons. If you have a larger tank then the savings would be even greater. Also I assumed that you fill up twice a month, but average commuter fills up once a week or 3 times a month, at least here in Southern California.

I have a Honda Odyssey, and it has 21 gallon gas tank. I save anywhere from $3.15 to $4.20 per fill up which is about $75 to $100 a year. Yup, it’s worth for me to get a Costco Membership.

Now, if your local Costco does not have a gas station, then it’s your call, but that store has so much to offer I still think it’s a good deal. Just the photo services alone make it worth while. Yes, they make you buy things in bulk, but those are things that you use anyways, and if you are a big family, maybe you buy thing in bulk anyways, so why not save on them.

To summarize it, yes get the Costco membership, I think it’s worth it, but your Costco has a gas station too, then YOU MUST GET IT, IT WOULD BE INSANE NOT TO GET IT.