Friday, September 28, 2012

Photographing Passive Income

A friend of mine from college has been making some money with photography lately. Personally, I think he's extremely talented; to point that we trusted him shoot photos for our wedding. (That's him above. I know. Awesome.)

So, he's been making some money with photography, and what makes his so awesome is that it's passive income. He recently wrote an article describing how he does it and I got to contribute. So, go check it out. Learn how to make money with photography passively - so you can spend time doing things you love instead of worrying about your next paying gig.

And why not use this as an excuse to show off a couple wedding photos he took.

Here's the link again:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

iPhone Panorama Pictures

Oh, why not one more thing on Apple.

I've been playing around with Panorama on iOS 6 as part of my "try everything new on iOS 6" kick. I must admit this one is pretty fun. Using it is pretty easy. With the camera open, tap on the "Options" button at the top. You'll see a couple choices, I like the Grid & HDR options on. Then you'll see a new button called Panorama.

Tap that button and you'll see a mini photo, with an arrow pointing right, with instructions to "Move iPhone continuously when taking a Panorama."

Position the phone at the start of the shot, tap the camera button at the bottom and start moving to the right. The phone takes a bunch of photos while you move. You do have to keep steady (keep the arrow on the line!), and you can't rush. If you do that, the phone can auto correct on the fly to make it look like a continuous picture.

I've found the results to be pretty fun. Vinnie managed to stay still long enough in this next picture of our fence that he didn't get cut off in a weird way. If you look closely at the top image, one of the cars doesn't look quite hole (I think you can click the image to see the full resolution version).

Actually, that's been my main critique of the iPhone: things have to be stationary for the picture to work. Moving objects tend to be blurry. My Canon Rebel is fast enough that slow moving objects turn out just fine. I've also noticed that it requires a steady hand from the photographer. On multiple occasions I've handed my phone to someone else to take a picture of me, and what I got back was blurry. Come on! How hard can it be? Then there's that awkward  moment when I have to ask this complete stranger to try again because this is a memory I want a clear shot of. Note: fellow iPhone owners seem to get "it". I guess you have a practice a little bit to take good photos with the iPhone.

Anyways, the Panorama is pretty cool. The whole area covered by the panorama is pretty wide, but you don't have to go the whole way. You can stop the shot three ways:
  1. Reach the right side of the box
  2. Tap the camera button again
  3. Stop moving, and go a little to the left

As is normal practice for Apple, they made it fairly basic, but dead simple to use. The results are pretty cool. Plus, with apps like Camera+, you can make them look spectacular. (That's what I did with these, using the Clarity filter)

I would still like an app that does the equivalent of "Street View Inside" so people could take a tour of inside a home at their own pace in a browser. Or better yet, use some sort of augmented reality so they can "walk around" a room without having to go inside. But that's a completely different type of app.

I can see myself using this in place of a wide angle lens.
  • When selling my truck, it would have been nice to get the full dashboard.
  • When taking photos of our units, now I'll be able to cover a larger area (this'll be really nice in the kitchen and bathroom).
  • When in a small room, I won't have to back up an awkward distance to fit everything. Nobody move!
  • This will DEFINITELY come in handy while traveling. Now I can get a picture of Jessi and the full Eiffel Tower without having a walk a mile to fit it in, or take multiple shots and spend an hour Photoshoping it together.

Here's an example of a vertical panorama. I started at my feet and ended looking right over my head. It struggle with the power lines, but that was also do to it being at the end of the shot when I start to wiggle a little more.

I can see myself taking a very wide picture, and then cropping it down to the small part I actually want. The panorama is big enough that the final picture will still be a good size.

Cool feature Apple.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Steve Jobs [Book Review]

Apparently I'm on an Apple kick. First Maps, then Contacts/Calendars, and now Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

I've been working on this audio book for a while. First, it's long. Second, I've been splitting time reading the Bible as part of my yearly goals. Most of my listening was done while running for my other goal and the Disney Half Marathon. Seriously, if you need to do something that takes a while (running, driving, washing dishes, and mowing lawn), I highly recommend listening to audio books. You can rent them from the library, buy them on, or borrow from friends. I consume the VAST majority of my books this way, and it really helps pass the time of those other events (I actually look forward to mowing the lawn).

When I was in high school and college I loved two types of books: real estate investing and self-improvement books. Those, I've discovered, are best for reading since I take notes and refer back to them later. However, when it comes to listening, my favorite types of books are definitely biographies and company profiles (OK. I like fiction books too). I've started using Good Reads to track what books I've read if you're interested. So, given my preferences, I knew I would like this book.

It also helped that I listened to it on an iPhone, and am writing this post on a Mac.

So, I liked the book and found it extremely entertaining. It had a good mix of childhood stories, young adult experiences, and career decisions. To be clear, the book is about Steve Jobs. NOT Apple. Sure, it talks about his management style and things he did within Apple, but it doesn't go into the inner workings of how Apple. I'm OK with that, though I did hear others complaining about it. Shocker! Apple stays secretive!

I really enjoyed learning about the early days of Apple, or Jobs' first round there. It's amazing how free-wheeling the company was. They just tried a bunch of ideas, ran them by Jobs, and implemented whatever he thought was FANTASTIC! I also can't believe how willing he was to review version, after version, after version, after version until it was just right. I like to think I can be OCD about things I create, but Jobs takes it to an entirely different level.

The writing style of the book is interesting. Biography books are normally written from a faceless 3rd person's perspective. Isaacson writes from his own perspective: "While talking to Bill Gates, he told me..." I suppose that's something he can get away with since most of the people he wrote about are still alive. It definitely makes it feel more real in the sense that it adds some fuzziness to the whole story. "I asked Steve later if that's how the event happened, and he would shrug his shoulders indicating he didn't care to remember." I think that helps show the complicated nature of Jobs too. Of course, it's hard to imagine anyone who genuinely has a straight-forward life.

Speaking of that, my big take away was that Steve Jobs wasn't some magical hero genius. He had a clear vision of what he wanted, and didn't care about hurting people to get his way. He also surrounded himself by super smart people. In the beginning it was luck, later on he made it a habbit. His vision also focused on how things looked visually. I don't think he would have flourished in the bio-technology or green-technology industries.

I do wish I had his ability to say "no" more often. I tend to jump on opportunities way too often and spread myself too thin... therefore not really being a run-away success at anything. That comes from having a clear vision of what you want, and focusing on that. I'm not really ready to make any radical changes today, but I will probably start to crystalize my own vision and focus on that.

Again, it's a good book. It's long, and very entertaining. If you're into technology (especially Apple) or biographies, it's definitely worth picking up and reading.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Facebook Contacts & Events On iPhone

After providing my feedback on Apple's new Maps app yesterday, I wanted to take the opportunity to praise a different feature: Facebook Contacts and Calendar on iPhone.

When I logged into Facebook, I was prompted with... nothing. Strange. So I headed to Settings where, sure enough, there was a Facebook option. After giving my email/password I had three options to use with my account. I'm sure that list will build over time as more apps take advantage of Facebook. For now, I'd like to focus on two: Contacts and Calendars.


When Facebook managed this feature within their app, you had to be really careful because it could replace your entire contact list. But this time they got it right. Turn it on and it will only match your existing contacts with Facebook profiles. It fills in any missing information which is pretty cool.

But then I scrolled to the bottom of one card (pictured above), and what I found was a section called "Linked Contacts". Tapping on that revealed that I was actually looking at a combined view of the existing contact information (I use Google Sync/Exchange), and Facebook. So the app didn't re-write any existing data at all, it only layered information on top. Very cool.

I also noticed, when I checked out my groups that all of my Facebook friends are on my phone, they're just not selected. The app is smart enough to combine/show info for only contacts I want to see. If I wanted to see everyone, I would just select it. Double cool.


I also chose to link Facebook with my calendar. I use Google Sync/Exchange for my calendar. Again, all the app does it layer Facebook information on top. By default it shows Birthdays and Events. By taping on "Calendars" within the app you can easily deselect which ones are shown. I'll definitely keep the Birthday one and probably hide events since if I'm really going I'll put in on my Google Calendar.

So, it looks like the Maps app has some room for improvement, but I really like the way Apple integrated Facebook into these two core apps. The only place I'd like a little improvement, would be to actually add the data to my existing contact information. That way when I use Google Contacts on other devices, all the information is there. I'm sure there's some sort of privacy/data sharing issues that would need to be resolved first, but one can hope!

Good job Apple and Facebook!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apple Maps Feedback (Along with Google & Waze)

Since everyone seems to be whining about Apple's new maps app, I thought I'd join in the fun. I used it yesterday for the first time on a trip I take often. To be semi-fair, I thought I'd provide my feedback with the 3 map apps I'm most familiar with: the previous Google powered maps and Waze.

Google Maps

The Good

  • Search is easy and complete. I used it all the time to find places.
  • I like Street View, especially when I'm not sure what side of the street something is on.
  • The app was zippy.
  • The driving directions always seemed accurate and avoided random shortcuts that were technically faster, but harder to follow.

The Bad

  • No spoken turn-by-turn.
  • No full screen.
  • Didn't work in the background... not that it really mattered I guess.

Of course, Google has great data and the map was well designed. The only gripe was a lack of turn-by-turn directions.


The Good

  • I really like the design. The words are easy to read, and the map takes up the full screen.
  • I can easily see the total distance and estimated arrival time.
  • When coming to a complicated part of the route, I can swipe around the map to see what's coming up. Then tap a little radar button which will bring me back to tracking my location. Very helpful!
  • When on a long stretch, the map zooms out so I can see how much further I have to go.
  • I can easily mute the audio within the app which is great when listening to audiobooks. For me it's not about the speaking. I just want the directions to auto-update after I make a turn.
  • The map has a "nigh mode" which is kinda cool.
  • The traffic data is well done. I've been able to avoid traffic on multiple occasions, and love it!

The Bad

  • Since it's community sourced, there are errors in the map. I find this to be especially true for places few people drive. It's gotten better (as it should), but it still has a ways to go.
  • Speaking of errors, Waze can never find my address. I have to type in "Albany, OR" and go from there. The picture above is sending me to the middle of Albany.
  • The map gives the shortest route, even if that means turning onto 50 random side streets. Keep my on big road, even if it means I'll be 30 seconds later.
  • The search feature is horrible! Search for "Home Depot" and you get a list of addresses. Why not plot them on a map? I'm searching because I DON'T know the address or where that address is. I ALWAYS started with Google Maps, then copied the address to search in Waze. This is LAME.
  • A final weird one: the app always tells me to turn too late. I'll have my blinker on, start moving into the turn lane, and THEN Waze will tell me to turn. That's just annoying.

I really like the design of the app. They pack a ton of information and the screen. I wish the back-end was just as good, but they're at the mercy of the community. They're NOT at the mercy on search and this should be fixed.

Apple Maps

The Good

  • As is Apple's style, they translate the real-word equivalent into a digital representation. So each turn direction looks like a road sign. Cute.
  • I like that I can go into full-screen mode.
  • I really like being able to use Siri to get driving directions. That's pretty cool and something I'll probably keep using.
  • When you search, it plots the options on a map (see Waze, someone other than Google can do it).
  • I like the way they label street names. I mean, it's not critically important since I'm not turning on them, but it's a nice feature.
  • I really like that I get an overall view before diving right in to the directions. That way I can be sure I'm headed in the right direction (Waze doesn't do this, further leading to my distrust of it's accuracy.)

The Bad

  • You can mute the audio, but it's hidden in the settings app, which is hidden in the Maps section. WAY to many taps while driving.
  • Information gets lost while in full-screen mode. It hides the ETA and total distance remaining. I know technically those shouldn't change, but what if I hit traffic? I want to see the updated estimate without having to tap. I'd also like to see the battery life remaining since I don't always have my phone plugged in.
  • I would also like it to adopt 2 other features from Waze: The ability to scroll around to see what's coming and to zoom out on long stretches of road so I can visually see how much further I have to go.

It's a classic Apple product: They focused on a small critical set of features and left out some obvious ones (cut & paste anyone?). Over time they'll make improvements with feedback.

The Overall Overall

My biggest concern is search, but works great on the iPhone. So worst case scenario, I just visit the website, copy the address and go back to the map. I'll probably continue to use Apple's Map since it's new and shiny... And well... I'm an Apple Fanboy. I don't know how well it's traffic data works, but if it doesn't re-route me like Waze does... I'm going to jump ship in times of trouble. So I'll probably start with Apple. If I can't find what I'm looking for, I'll search on Google, then jump back to Apple. It'll probably be rare that I open up Waze, but I'll definitely keep it around just in case.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

4th Annual Parry-Furlo Camping Trip

For the 4th year in a row we embarked on the Parry-Furlo Camping Trip. I told my grandma we were staying in a yurt and she didn't know what that was. Behold Grandma! Above is the outside, below is the inside.

Think of it as a really cheap cabin, without running water.

But don't worry, it was still comfortable to sleep in. Here's a funny picture I got of Ethan sleeping. This is what I saw when I looked up at the bed. Kinda creepy. :)

Here's Jessi & Kellie enjoying dinner around the campfire. We had a ton of wood this year too. We kept a bunch of scraps from our fence project and Jessi brought home a couple of old pallets. David provided the long burning logs, which meant we had a healthy fire pretty much the whole time.

 One of my favorite parts is roasting items over the fire. Here's David getting after it with a hot dog. I especially love bagels in the morning.

Grace & Ethan are definitely growing up too! They both had a ton of fun. Ethan & I tossed the football around a ton... Sometimes a little too close to the fire (it might have landed in the fire once...). I especially enjoyed telling stories with Grace the second night.

Of course, we brought Vinnie. And since we got a pet-friendly yurt, he was able to sleep with us.

Vinnie ran around like crazy the first night in the yurt. What a crazy puppy! The next day we ran him ragged and didn't let him take a nap. He slept the whole night. :)

A new addition to the trip was Zoe. She also seemed to have a good time hanging around the campsite and going on walks. She even seemed to get along pretty well with Vinnie, which hasn't always been the case.

Oh yeah, and proof I made it on the trip too. We went on a walk to the lake you see behind me. It was a beautiful day on the Oregon Coast. For those of you with keen eyes, you'll notice all of us are wearing jackets. That's how it goes on the Oregon Coast. Of course, that didn't stop one older lady from diving into the water and going for a swim!

 Thanks for the fun trip Parry clan! We're looking forward to next year already!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Goal: Run 10 miles in <= 100 minutes

At the beginning of the year Jessi and I set goals, which I shared. One of my goals was to run 10 miles in <= 100 minutes, or average at least 10 min/mi. The main reason for this goal was that we would be participating in the Disneyland Half Marathon and I didn't want to be completely burned out when we finished. As I wrote previously, we just finished it, and it was fantastic! So, I decided it was time to do the official run to see if I could hit my goal.

As the picture above shows, I did it: 10 miles in 95 minutes, or 9:25 min/mi.

I ran two 4.7 miles loops and then added a little more to make it 10 miles. The nice part about doing 2 loops is that I could get grab a quick drink of water from a water bottle I left my the driveway. Here's what the loop looked like:

And what the elevation looked like. My pace stayed pretty consistent. It may look like big swings in elevation, but it's not. There's no scale on this, but the whole route is pretty flat, my guess is that there's at most 50 feet difference.

Here are my splits. Clearly the first half was close to a 9 minute average. The second half was more a 10 minute average (hence 9:25 overall). Surprisingly, it's almost like I hit a wall in the middle of the 6th mile and immediately slowed down, but then stayed pretty consistent at that slower pace.

The final chart I thought was interesting. This shows my weekly milage. As would be expected, I slowly increased the amount of miles I covered. By the way, I used the RunKeeper iPhone app to track all of this (Website iPhone).

It feels great to complete that goal. I'll probably continue running, but I'll keep it in the 5 mile range which I can easily do in an hour.

I also ended up losing about 12 pounds since I started in May. Not a bad side effect at all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

2012 Disneyland Half Marathon

Jessi & I flew down to Disneyland last weekend to participate in their annual half marathon. My sister, Lisa, ran with us. My mom and brother participated in the 5K fun run through the parks, and my dad cheered us all on. Needless to say, it was fantastic!

We started at 6am to the national anthem and fireworks. Here's what the start looked like:

We then ran through the parks.

Here we are in front of the castle. It's behind my large head.

Then we headed straight to the 1st star for half the morning (instead of the 2nd star until morning). 17,000 people participated! You can see a fraction of them here. And yes, this part of the run was VERY hot.

Disney made sure there was never a boring moment. At each turn there seemed to be some sort of entertainment: Singers, dancers, cheerleaders, and marching bands.

Oh yeah, and people dressed up and/or holding funning signs. One of my favorites said: "Worse parade ever!"

Yep, we even ran through a classic car show.

One of the more exciting moments was running inside the Angle's baseball stadium. It wasn't packed, but there were enough people to really create some noise.

Love it.

For finishing, we got some cool "D" medals.

Afterwards, we spent more time in the parks. This is one of their new restaurants. Lisa made reservations a while ago because it's so fancy & new.

We also rode a ton of rides. Unfortunately, my dad couldn't run because his hip is bothering him. It's to the point that he has to walk with a cain.

FORTUNATELY, it means that we got to cut in line at every ride. We began calling it "the cut stick".

By the way, the new Cars Land is pretty awesome.

On our way to the the Fireworks show we stopped to watch a jazz band. They are really good. Check out the video to see what happened.

Here's the video:

We also ate delicious treats while shutting down the park.

With the help of the half marathon, I managed to set a single day personal record for the most number of steps: 45,000!

It was a great trip. I enjoyed the run, and hanging out with family. Now it's nice to be back at work where I can actually relax and get some sleep!