AJ Henderson AJ's Blog

July 5, 2013

Birthday and More Photo Investments

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos,Technology,Work — AJ @ 6:31 pm

So, hit 29 this year.  For a combined birthday present and business investment I decided the time was finally right to pick up the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II.  As some may be aware, there is currently a $300 off sale going on from Canon that is reflected across all retailers.  In addition, I found it on Buydig with another 5% off (plus 1% from my credit card), free shipping, a free multi-coated Hoya UV filter, a free cleaning kit and free 2 day shipping.  The cleaning kit was kind of a joke and 2 day shipping didn’t matter since it came from NJ and had to wait until I was home to sign for it anyway, but the filter was a nice $60 bonus.

I got it on Friday after my birthday and just before Autotask’s summer engineering picnic.  Wanting to give it a try, I swung by home and picked it up.  It was a great day for really putting the lens through its paces.  It was cloudy with on and off rain leading up to an all on down pour which gave me a chance to try out the weather proofing.  I’m pleased to say it held up very respectably.  I was using the 5D Mark iii with the battery grip on it (which notably does compromise the weather sealing a little bit, but only if water comes up from the bottom of the grip.)  I did finally head for cover when it got to an all out down poor, but through multiple small to moderate rain showers I was able to keep shooting no problem.

The only problem I noticed with the weather sealing (and I’m not sure if it was the weather sealing’s problem or not) was that two minor very small spots of condensation formed under the top LCD panel where I’d been handling it.  It was exceptionally humid though and the rain caused a very rapid temperature change, so I think this may have just been condensation and it evaporated within the hour with no ill effects.  Otherwise, there were no signs of any problems from the rain.  I’ll probably still pick up a rain coat for it for added protection, but it’s nice to know that the weather proofing really does work.  (Plus it’s a bit fun to get weird stares from people wondering why you are shooting with an expensive looking camera in the rain without concern.)

Rain or shine, the focus was fast and very accurate, though I did find the limit of modern AF point selection.  Since I was shooting mostly vollyball from fairly close (mostly individual player shots) and following the ball itself, I had to leave it on full autofocus.  While the reject rate was only about 1 in 3, I was a little disappointed because I normally am aiming for closer to 1 in 5 or so.  That said, I think it was probably an unrealistic expectation for conditions.  Between the net, the ropes holding up the net and other players, there was a lot of movement and shifting the shot very fast and it still held up 2 out of 3 shots focusing on what I intended.  Even on the shots where it didn’t focus on what I wanted, something was in sharp focus.  So the camera doesn’t quite read minds, but it is very fast and accurate.  This was also before I had a chance to micro-adjust the lens.

As far as sharpness goes, I was a little disappointed, though I think this was again a result of unrealistic expectations.  I was comparing it to the results from my 24-70mm f/2.8L II which has got to be just about the sharpest lens on the planet.  While, in my opinion, the sharpness of the 70-200 doesn’t even remotely approach the sharpness of the 24-70, it still isn’t anything to complain about.  Reflections are still pretty clearly visible in people’s eyes at portrait distance.  It’s also still easily twice as sharp as my 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS is, and as previously mentioned, the AF is so much faster and tighter.  The full time manual focus, shorter minimum focus distance, fixed lens length and orientation and extra speed round it out to make it quite satisfying even if it isn’t as magic as the 24-70 was.  (f/2.8 across the entire range is a beautiful thing.)

Shot in the Rain

A quick shot while heading for cover when it started to down pour

Motion stopping and great focus.

Motion stopping and great focus.

Since then, I’ve also had a chance to try it out a bit more for indoor work and flash work while doing a bunch of portrait work while my brother-in-law was jamming on his guitar.  They really show the power of f/2.8 and the accuracy of the focus even in fairly dim conditions.

Portrait at 142mm f/7.1

Portrait at 142mm f/7.1

Low Light with Flash, 200mm f/2.8


Depth of Field at 85mm f/2.8

Portrait, 70mm, f/2.8

Looking forward to the first wedding I’ll be shooting with the lens on the 20th.

December 21, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 8:27 pm

Well, I got myself a gnex on release day.  The best part has to be the ease of grouping apps and the dual core speed.  Following shortly after that is the recent apps button to allow easy transitions between apps when multitasking.  The 4g speed is also wonderful since I got to keep my unlimited data.  I also tried out google wallet tonight at Rite Aid and it worked perfectly.

On the downside, sound quality is not as good as my fascinate was, but this may be an issue with my phone as others are reporting good sound.  Swype isn’t available yet, though the keyboard isn’t too bad.  The new location of the menu button takes some getting used to and I still occasionally am deleting emails when I mean to mark them as read.  There also is not yet a car dock that includes audio and power quick connects.  Rumor is it should be available soon though.

I had a bit of exciting time rooting.  Actually a week before getting the gnex, my fascinate bricked off a ota update and I had to rebuild it.  Well, it was a good week for bricking because I did the same to my nexus within four hours of getting it when trying to root.  Two tense hours later I managed to find a stock image and was able to adapt a shell script to get the steps for reflashing my phone to stock from fast boot.  It is now running quite happily rooted though.

The one last thing to figure out now is if the sound is actually bad on my particular phone and if it is a problem in general, I’ll need to decide between a Bluetooth DAC from Sony or Samsung or waiting for USB host support so I can use a higher quality USB DAC.

July 11, 2011

Travel Woes / Finally Actually On My Way To Peoria

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Work — AJ @ 6:16 pm

So apparently Mitch (Pearl Companies’ CTO) and I have something in common.  We both apparently have horribly bad luck when traveling.  This winter he must have tried three or more times to get to the Latham office only to have it snowed out each time.  Now I’ve had similar luck.  The first time I tried flying out in June I got a 103 fever the night before I was supposed to fly out and we had to cancel at the last minute.  This time around I was supposed to be flying out with 3 other coworkers but someone put in their notice and they had to cancel all but me for the trip because there were things that needed to be done with that.  Finally, this morning at 4am while I was on my way to the airport, I managed to get a flat tire on my car.

On the upside, I was able to get the donut on pretty quick (15 minutes or so) and still got to the airport with plenty of time, but still…  Apparently they now have electronic boarding passes at Albany International Airport.  They just send you an e-mail with a link to a boarding pass page that gives a QR code style barcode that they read at the checkpoint.  It’s pretty slick though only supported by the left most check-in lane at the moment.  I was pleased to find that most of the useless “security” stuff wasn’t at ALB yet, though I was actually pleasently surprised to notice a few actual good ideas on their part for security proceedures that could actually make a bit of difference and were fairly non-intrusive.  Too bad we couldn’t do that before wasting billions on useless backscatter machienes, but then again, lobbyists and government contractors need to be able to put nice food on their solid gold tables and make people feel safe regardless of any actual impact on security.

January 28, 2011

New Servers, IIS7 PHP/Perl Fun and Massive VMWare Images

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — AJ @ 7:45 am

So over the last few weeks I have been working on transitioning the Wiicafe.com server to a new home on a new, cheaper, more powerful dedicated server than the aging, ailing 2k3 box it had been on.  We’re now in the final stage of the move to a new 2k8 box and it has been an adventure in learning the new abilities and quirks of IIS7.

Overall, I have actually found the entire migration progress to be very easy.  After zipping up all the data for the server I was able to simply unzip it on the new server and setup IIS sites for each.  The Web Platform Installer was great in terms of simplifying installation of most services and IIS7 had a much more streamlined flow for building out the sites and sub domains.

The only really challenging part was getting Perl working for a few legacy Perl bits on the Wiicafe site.  The key turned out to be the fact that ActiveState’s 64 bit builds do not include the ISAPI filter version of Perl and the CGI based ones are not very good and are prone to crashing on code that works under any other situation.  After figuring this out from lots of research and gathering scattered bits of information from around the net (and wasting more than a few hours) it turned out to be as simple as downloading the 32 bit version, installing it on the system, creating an app pool for the portion of the site requiring Perl support, altering the app pool’s advanced settings to set the “Enable 32 bit Applications” flag and then setting up the mapping for the scripting engine as normal.

There was also an issue I ran in to after everything was set up.  I’m not sure what caused it exactly but for some reason the PHP Manager ( a really nice plugin for IIS7 that manages PHP settings for multiple versions of PHP running on the same server) decided to start erroring out and one of my php.ini files mysteriously disappeared.  I pulled the php.ini from shadow copy, but was still getting a “IIS7 File monitoring is enabled for a file which could not be found” error being returned by PHP’s FastCGI handler.  After searching the web and finding nothing useful, I tried simply using the Web Platform Installer to install a newer version of PHP and that fixed the issue on both the non-working PHP version as well as the new version.

The last bit of fun was simply trying to back up the old server.  I’m by nature a pack rat and can’t stand getting rid of a system for fear of missing something or misplacing some data.  (I have numerous terabytes of external hard drives to prove this.)  To avoid any possible loss of data, I set out to make my largest VMWare image ever.  I loaded up VMWare Converter (a wonderful free utility from VMWare for converting a physical computer in to a virtual one) on the old server but had a problem that I didn’t have enough space on the old server to make an image.  (The old server only had 120GB of HD space and over 110GB of that was in use.)  To get around that particular problem I ended up setting up a remote desktop from the new server (with it’s shiny almost empty 250GB drive) to the old server and setup a drive mapping over the tsclient share that I could direct VMWare Converter to save it’s image to.  About 4 and a half hours later I had a beautiful 103 GB virtual machine of the old server (broken in to 2GB chunks thankfully) and started the 17 hour process of downloading it all to my home workstation. (I don’t think my cable company will like me much this month.)  After the download finished, everything booted great in VMWare Player (also free).  Though I did double the RAM available to the server to make it run a little smoother.

So yeah, overall a bit of an exciting time in new server land and time to bid a fond farewell to the old wiicafe.com server that has served wiicafe and myself so well for the last 6 or so years.

October 18, 2010

MySpace and LinkedIn

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — AJ @ 5:21 pm

Sure they may be the abandoned end of the interwebs, but why shouldn’t they enjoy the blog linking bliss?  Thanks to Alpha Links for the latest functionality.

November 12, 2008

Adobe Master Collection and other Cool Stuff

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Work — AJ @ 10:17 pm

Well, I guess I haven’t been much better about keeping this new blog up to date.  A whole lot has happened since my last post. I have changed jobs, my old job is no more (after I left), things are much better work wise and I really enjoy working at Pearl Carroll & Associates.  I have been very happily married for over 5 months now and just yesterday finally started getting around to working on my photos.  (Thanks to getting Lightroom 2.  1168 photos are hard to go through otherwise.)  I should have a gallery up on The Henderson Wedding soon. 

I have also just obtained the CS4 Master Collection and have been messing around with it.  I am actually writing this post from within Contribute and I’m hoping it won’t mess things up too badly when I try to post this article.  Oh yeah, I also left my former WoW guild over issues that we couldn’t resolve and have started a new guild called House of Pain along with two of my friends from PIF.

September 24, 2007

Coworkers and a small world…

Filed under: Personal,Work — AJ @ 2:37 pm

Well, I learned once again what a small town Clifton Park really can be.  A few weeks back I realized that one of my co-worker’s Chris Nawrot was a year ahead of me at Shen and while we didn’t share any classes, we were going in and out of a room at the same time.  Then this week I found out that another one of my co-worker’s Jackie Chen is related to two classmates from high school.  I guess it just goes to show that even though many of those I know have moved on, Clifton Park still is proving to be its own little small world.

August 14, 2007

A New Beginning

Filed under: Personal,Work — AJ @ 5:54 pm

Well, unfortunatly Sythesis Software lapsed on its registration and I lost it to a domain camper, but I’m not to disappointed as I have long since given up on wanting to start a video editing/computer graphics software business.   As of May 7th, 2007 I am now engaged to the ever beautiful Danielle Dignon.  I have also given up on the Coast Guard a long time ago as I realized it would take me away from Danielle and wasn’t all that worth it.  Danielle got discharged from the Air Force for medical reasons and we have been playing World of Warcraft together.  (We have a level 70 warrior and druid on Eonar.)

 I have been working for Applied Underwriters, a company that specializes in workers compensation insurance and payroll services for small and medium size businesses, for a little over a year and have already been given system admin duties at our office as well as being in charge of a section of one of our applications.

I just got this new domain yesterday and have migrated my old site to WordPress to encourage more updates.  I have also been working with Dan Horning from www.americandigitalservices.com and www.planetnoc.com on several PHP based development projects.

Overall life has been going pretty well and I am really looking forward to going on vacation tommorow with Danielle’s family to Delaware to visit her Uncle and Cousin and then on to New York City for a couple of days.  I am also really looking forward to our wedding, tenativly scheduled for June 7th, 2008 (6/7/8, yes, we’re that dorky).  Hopefully I will be updating this more now that I have a better system in place.  Until next time…

September 11, 2005

A Long Time Comming

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,School,Work — AJ @ 5:44 pm

Well, well, well. I’m guessing anyone who stumbled across this site probably thought it was dead after not being updated for a year and a half. The truth is, the hosting company that hosts this page had to change their main hosting center because of a problem with their Internet connection, but I wasn’t able to get a stable enough connection to download my site to be able to move it from their old servers to their new servers. Rather than put in the needed time and energy to fix it I just let it sit and then when I tried to retrieve my site in class the other day it worked. So anyway, now the site is up on the new server so it should perform much better and be easier to update.So what has happened in the last year and a half? Well, I’m now in my Senior year at RPI which is incredibly hard to believe. The super secret project for GameCube Café was the E3 DVD which was delayed by a year and then ended up falling pretty much through the floor because Nintendo dropped a big fat goose egg and gave no useful information about the Revolution. Since that was our main marketing point we were kind of sunk from the get go. The DVD came out really nice though.

In other news, I started playing a MMOFPS called PlanetSide in January. I immediatly became a fan. Basically it is a futuristic war sim. You take the role of a soldier in one of three empires battling for control of a planet called Auraxis which had a bunch of advanced technology on it, some of which caused the planets continents to each split to being their own planet. (Wierd yes, but it gave them a reason to expand the game and make different types of climates and such.) Each continent/planet holds up to 133 people from each of the 3 empires and you battle for control of bases on each continent. (You capture bases by either hacking a terminal in the base and holding it for 15 minutes or by hacking that terminal, picking up the LLU (a ball basically) and getting it to another one of your bases.) The reason I love it so much is that it is like a real time strategy game, but every character is a real person. You level up by getting kills and helping capture bases. This gets you BEP (battle experience points) and when you get enough you get a battle rank (BR). You can also get command experience points(CEP) for helping with captures while leading a squad. There are 25 BR levels and 6 CR levels (BR 1-25 and CR 0-5) BR gets you implants for special abilities (3 total), Certification points (1 for each of most battle ranks), and cosmetic changes such as armor color. Command rank grants different special abilities such as placing 4 waypoints on the map for all squad members(CR1), revealing the locations of all friendlies on the continent (CR2), EMPs that take out or disable all mines, turrets, vehicle weapons and implants in the area of the EMP (CR3 – CR5 getting bigger each level), Revealing enemies in an area on the map (CR4 and 5), Orbital Strikes from space (CR4 and 5) and the ability to send messages to all players on your empire on the server (CR5). Each CR also has a cosmetic armor change and access to a command chat channel with others of that CR level within a growing area. (CR2 – base, CR3 – region, CR4 – continent, CR5 – server) I joined up with an outfit (guild/clan) pretty early on called Forgotten Soldiers. They are probably one of the best outfits on the server. I worked my way up through the outfit and I am now an officer with them. I have a BR23/CR5 character and a BR13/CR0 character. I’m also involved with several websites related to PlanetSide. http://www.forgottensoldiers.us/ is the homepage for Forgotten Soldiers. http://www.ncallianceps.com is the website for the New Conglomerate Alliance (NCA) which is an alliance of various tactical outfits. http://www.emeraldnc.com is a community site for all people that play an NC character on the Emerald server. A friend of mine from PS and I started it about 3 weeks ago. Mostly I do coding on all these sites automating different things based on stat tracking and such. All in all, I love the game because it is so tactical and so large scale.In other big news, I have decided to break from my original plan to start a company writing computer graphics and video software. Instead I plan to apply to the FBI as a Special Agent. This decission came about when I realized that the FBI is looking for Computer Science majors and I realized they pay on par with the rest of industry. I hope to work with both computer related investigation and SWAT. I may even eventually try to make it on to the HRT (Hostage Rescue Team [Think FBI version of the SAS.]) I can’t apply until I’m 23 though, so it gives me a year to kill after I graduate. I have begun to workout to prepare physically and I am also learning Arabic, continuing my training on rifle marksmanship and will be applying for a pistol permit in December so that I can work on pistol marksmanship.

Ok, I think that is quite a bit for now, I’m sure there are things I have missed, but I can always bring those up in future updates. Hopefully I’ll be updating this again in less than a year and a half. Until then, later.

March 3, 2004

IT Directing and Cool Secrets

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Work — AJ @ 5:43 pm

Wow, I have let this site sit for a long time. I had a Flash site up for a while, but then I realized that Google couldn’t read it, so I dropped it in to a subfolder. I haven’t had a chance to update the site at all because I have been really busy with Gamecube Café. Since December I have been the IT Director at GameCube Café. I’m also involved with a super secret project there. Shh, noybody even knows there is a secret project yet, except my readers. Stay tuned to GameCube Café for more details about the project in a couple of months.

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