Michal Čihař - Blog Archives for English

Looking for digital SLR

Being impressed by prices of these toys here in Japan, I decided to finally buy one. This decision was quite easy, but it implies much harder one - which one to choose. Looking at my money availability and what do shops here offer, I have five possibilities: Canon EOS Kiss Digital X (EOS 400D in Europe), Nikon D40x, Nikon D80, Pentax K10D or Sony α 100.

Well it's hard choice. However for now I prefer something with shake reduction, what limits selection to either Pentax or Sony (or some of the others with lenses which do the same). And from these two, Pentax looks like much better choice. As this will be my first SLR, I don't have to stick with same vendor to be able use my equipment, but I'm much more interested in availability of add-on lenses and other stuff. And in this are seem to win Nikon and Canon. So that are points for the other side of the match.

I played with all these cameras in shop, but I really didn't find any of them much better than others. I just take few shots and nothing surprised me there. And I was able to switch them all from Japanese to English quite quickly ;-). So this step did not decide anything. Reading various reviews also didn't help much, as each camera has advantages and disadvantages...

For now my temporarily winner is Pentax, but I think I should find some more convincing arguments before buying it :-).

PS: I know there exists a bit cheaper variant of Pentax branded as Samsung GX-10, but I haven't seen it anywhere here in shops.

World clock applet

Being far away from your home adds you need to know what time is there and whether you can safely call people not waking them up in the middle of night. So I looked for some Gnome applet that would show me time in another time zone. I expected this to be easy, but unfortunately I didn't find anything in Debian. Few minutes of Googling revealed something, but both applets I found look quite unmaintained.

After a bit of testing I decided to give World Clock Applet 0.0.0 a try. It seems to work so far and installation only needed few tweaks. As I hate to use something not in Debian packages, I packaged this beast. For now it is available only in my repository, as I'm pretty sure it would not pass any license checks :-).

Phone database cleanup

Gammu Phone Database grew into quite big size and there were quite a lot of duplicate or poor quality records. So I today decided to do some cleanup of data inside it. First step was figuring out duplicates. There were quite a lot of them and I could remove about 50 records without loosing information about any phone.

The quality issue is always harder. Some empty records really did not make a sense, so they're gone now. However some users really don't understand what some features mean, so there were quite a lot of phones being reported to support MMS and I'm pretty sure there is no code in Gammu for it :-). I went through their list and dropped almost half of phones there. Some records might have been useful in other way, but I can not verify what all was wrong with them.

Maybe I should add some basic checks when adding new entry to check such errors as MMS support for AT connection.

Photo album candidate - lazygal

I received number of reactions on my photoalbum post. Several were saying "I'm using some great Perl tool which is not actively maintained anymore.". Well I know such tools. I also used BINS some time ago, but it did break something (I don't recall what exactly right now, it's quite far far away in past) and I was unable to fix it. That was reason I switched to Matew.

The other replies were much better. One of them recommended trying lazygal (well it was recommended by it's author). I gave it a try and it seemed to fit my basic needs quite well and extending it's EXIF support was a piece of cake. I will continue to tune it to my needs, but I'm pretty close right now. The hardest thing for me will be to come up with some good looking themes, but I will most likely steal my ones for Matew :-).

Photo album generator wanted

After (again) searching for some good photo album generator, I'm more and more inclined to writing yet another tool to do this. Maybe I just want too much from this, but I haven't found solution that would fit my needs:

  • Generate static HTML (or XHTML).
  • Design should be done using CSS.
  • Ability to process whole tree of photos into single album with directory based sub albums.
  • Generate data only for changed/new photos (timestamp checking).
  • Support for including EXIF information in results.
  • Clean and nicely looking default template.
  • Support for image comments from EXIF, JPEG comment field and external file.
  • Automatic generating of images suitable for web browsing as well as including links to full sized images from camera.
  • Somehow active development. I fear of using code which has not been updated for 3 years.
  • It should be fast. This excludes anything written in bash as spawning tons of external programs can not be fast.
  • Written in some language I know. I'm pretty sure I will hit some bug and I would like to be able to fix it. In fact only suitable language for me seems to be Python.
  • Command line interface is a must.

So far I'm using a bit customised Matew which really does not fulfil everything, but at least works reasonably good (but extremely slow). However the more and more pictures are in my album, the slower this beast seems to be, so it's probably time to switch to something new. So far I haven't found anything that would actually fit, but PyAC seems to be usable as starting point for my new project for generating albums. Or is there a working solution?

First Japanese experiences

Thursday morning I arrived Chubu airport near Nagoya and at this time started my first visit to Japan. It will take quite long time (3-6 months), so I should have enough time to do as much sightseeing as I want. But there was not much time for sightseeing so far. Besides work and having rest after 24 hours of travelling, we only went today to see a bit of city. No real sightseeing, it was rather finding out some things.

The most important was to find ATM accepting our credit cards. I didn't expect it will be that difficult, but it turned out that most ATMs accept only Japanese Visa and MasterCard cards and not ours. Fortunately post office has ATMs accepting foreign cards, so we finally have enough cache to survive next week ;-).

The next step was to buy something we can start to learn Japanese a bit. It would be great to be able to read at least some signs and menu in restaurant. We bought few books, but later in restaurant it turned out to be almost useless. Fortunately the cook can a bit English, so we managed to order something we wanted. But this is the largest problem here - our poor Japanese knowledge as there was not time to prepare for this back at home...

Gammu stable version 1.13.0

I just released new version of Gammu. There are no big changes since last testing release:

  • Fixed several crashes of 6510 driver.

For stable users there are tons of changes, most noticable is initial support for Sharp and Motorola phones, notes support for OBEX driver and various fixes to make compilation in Visual Studio possible.

Gammu test version 1.12.94

I just released new version of Gammu. This release brings lots of bug fixes especially in OBEX code and adds initial support for Sharp GX series. Full list of changes:

  • Sony-Ericsson module renamed to AT + OBEX as it better describes what it does.
  • Initial support for Sharp GX Series phones.
  • Added deliveryreportdelay parameter to SMSD to allow later received delivery reports to be correctly detected.
  • Fixed calculation of OBEX file names, could lead to crash on OBEX upload (Debian bug #435875).
  • Fixed time stamp receiving in SMSD.

Looking for new phone

As it looks like I will be sent to business trip to Japan, I found out that I will need to buy yet another phone. I'm quite happy with my Sony-Ericsson K750i right now and I will continue to use it after I return, so I need just short term replacement.

From this comes my requirements:

  1. It must work in Japan. This means 3G phone is needed.
  2. I don't want to spend lot of money.
  3. Should be available on Czech or Japanese market as I don't have time for buying somewhere else.

Currently I have Nokia 6151 and Sony-Ericsson K610i in my viewfinder as they seem to be cheapest 3G solutions available here on market. If you have better tip for cheap 3G phone, just write me on michal@cihar.com, thanks!

PS: Of course I will try my new phone with Gammu. If you want to have support for some special 3G phone in Gammu, just drop me a note. Donations for such phone is welcome :-).

PS2: As I'm already in Japan I also have the phone. At the end I choose Nokia 6234, which was cheapest available solution I could find. Thanks for all hints, one of them guided me to this phone!