So I got this new phone. Another smart-phone. It actually looks quite smart. And I can even call with it! :D
And it’s got all these fancy widgets that you can install. First I thought I’d install the Facebook app, so I checked it out, downloaded it, and got to reading to what I have to agree to when installing the app. I knew already that Zuckerberg was a sneaky little weasel, so I read carefully and quickly canceled. It read this:

This application has access to the following:
System tools: Prevent phone from sleeping, write sync settings
Network communications: Full Internet access
Your personal information: Read contact data, write contact data
Your accounts: Manage the accounts list, act as an account authenticator
Your location: fine (GPS) location

So… I don’t think so. I mean… Read contact data? Write contact data? Manage the accounts list and act as an account authenticator? WTF? No way!

There’s been already a whole lot of discussion going on about applications on today’s smart-phones that access private information, with or without the phone’s owner knowing about it, and I’m sure there’s something going on in my phone, too, with pre-installed things, that I don’t know of. But when installing third-party applications, you just have to be really careful.

So I checked on, found a couple of nice widgets that could give interesting info. AccuWeather Clock was one. So again, I downloaded it and got to reading what I have to agree to when installing. Did you think that Zuckerberg was a sneaky little weasel? From him I sort of get it still, since he has this whole social networking thing going on. But from the AccuWeather Clock? That app has no business sticking its nose in my private information! And it wants to access even more information than the Facebook app. WTF????

Accuweather Clock smart-phone application

D700, ISO200, 1 sec @ f/6.7, Tamron 90mm macro

The above is a real-time photograph of the AccuWeather Clock application, just before  installation. I don’t know who of you has actually installed this, but have you read what you’ve allowed this thing to access?
Allow this application to directly call phone numbers (services that cost you money).
Allow this application to act as an account authenticator, contacts data in Google accounts, Google mail, manage the accounts list, use the authentication credentials of an account.
Allow this application to modify or delete SD card contents.
Allow this application to modify global system settings, prevent phone from sleeping, retrieve running applications, write subscribed feeds, write sync settings.

Seriously, why the hell would you put the authentication credentials there in the first place, if you allow these kind of applications to freely use them? And why would this application need to have access your Google account, calendar and be able to add stuff to your calendar and to send people in your contact list mails? That’s just SO screwed up.
Have you read the terms and conditions on everything you’ve agreed to? Do you realize what implications these things have on your privacy?
I suggest you start checking what you’ve got installed on your phone and what it’s accessing. You might be surprised. Not pleasantly…

So… after three weeks of inspiration with the Better Half back around me, I’m back home, alone, lost 2 kilos of hair, but gained about 22 kilos with the straight week-and-a-half of binging around Christmas and New Year.
Happy New Year, btw, to all of you.
And now I’m totally uninspired again. My smart-phone turned retard on me the morning we left to the Netherlands, the touch screen forgot its calibration points or something, so no matter where I touched on the screen, the phone thought I was touching it on the left side only. Thought I could fix it by restarting, but that only resulted in me not being able to enter the pincode to unlock the phone. And that resulted in my smartphone turning into nothing more but an expensive smart-alarm clock of which I couldn’t even reset the time.
The temporary phone I used was only good for receiving messages and its life drained within 30 seconds when someone actually called me (or if I called). Thus I ended up having to buy a new phone back in Finland. Everyone told me to get an iPhone, and although I’m not principally against Apple per sé, I’m principally against a) getting something (almost) EVERYone has or wants, b) getting something seriously overrated (I feel a war starting here ;o) ), c) paying a shyte load of money and then not owning it (i.e. not having the liberty to do with it and buy for it whatever I please; Apple being able to lock it from a distance or with software updates), d) being obligated to install a dinosaur like iTunes on my computer for my phone to work properly (no, I don’t have iTunes installed), and there are probably a few more reasons still, but I think the above ones are enough to start the revolution. :D Oh, to ease the iPeople’s suffering: ever since I got my HTC with Windows Mobile I also got principally against Windows Mobile.
That left me with only two choices: Nokia N8 with Symbian or something with Android. I was told by a friend to stay far away (and not even touch with a stick) the N8, which made the choice quite easy.
Now let’s see if it’s been a good choice…

Phones

Inspiration-less image, don't look at its compositional and/or photographic-technical qualities. It's only meant to show the phones. It has no artistic value.

In Holland I bought an MP3 player. Not an iPod, I’m not such a gadget man, and a dinosaur like iTunes on my computer I’m not really happy with. So I just bought a simple thing which I can play my music on when I’m traveling.
It’s a Sweex. Never heard of the brand, but it looks nice. It’s got a nice and simple design, and a nice and simple interface, and you can just drag and drop the stuff there without having to install any extra software. Quick and easy. Me like…

When I got home I opened the package to charge it and upload some music on there. The first thing I noticed was the logo (being a graphic designer, I know a bit about logos and design) and I instantly thought WTF?

Now before all you girls start yelling “You guys only think of one thing!!” ;) I’d like you to have a good look and decide for yourself:

Sweex and durex logos

Sweex and durex logos

But anyway…
The player works like a charm, so… No complaints here ;)

Some days really ARE oblivious…

Mist

D700, ISO200, 1/15 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Beautiful climate here in the Netherlands, and gorgeous pictures with the fog (when it suits ME), but when I want to photograph the solar eclipse and that fog screws up everything, it’s a major nuisance.

Gotta scrape things together to get the pictures you want anyway (oh, and it was kept a bit fake on purpose ;) )….
Good morning, World:

Solar eclipse

D700, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/13, Nikkor 50mm, off-camera SB-800, and some quick and dirty Photoshopping.

The original:

Solar eclipse

The original, before the quick and dirty Photoshopping (on a non-calibrated minuscule laptop, btw, so apologies for the rough edges, blown out colors and everything).

Snow

D700, ISO200, 1/4 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Winter

D700, ISO200, 1/6 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

I must honestly admit that I’m getting more and more excited by the whole cross-processing thing.
I feel an exhibition coming up!

If you find the right places and the right subjects/objects, it really turns out nicely. And it’s such a small thing, it takes less than five minutes. A couple of weeks ago I showed a friend how quick and easy it is to do and now he keeps on telling me that the image I did looks so much better (and he keeps on accusing me of purposely waiting with showing him until AFTER he submitted it to a contest! ARGH! ;) ).

This “procedure” takes just two things.
The first and most important one is to see the potential of the subject/object you’re photographing. Not everything is suitable to be cross-processed. Not every color is suitable to be cross-processed. So basically you need to be able to portray the end-result in your mind’s eye the moment you see a potential scene.
The second one is -of course- Photoshop (or a different piece of photo editing software that allows you to use adjustment layers and blending modes or similar features).

And then you apply the “procedure” and you get the following.

The potential:

Cross-processing

D700, ISO200, 1/180 sec @ f/2.4, Nikkor 50mm

The potential after the “procedure” has been applied:

Cross-processing

D700, ISO200, 1/180 sec @ f/2.4, Nikkor 50mm, less than 5 minutes in Photoshop

I usually don’t use it all that often, but… I mean… She… Well…
Never mind…

Anyway…
Those cosmetics products these days, there’s a lot to say about them. Flashy colors, cute bottle designs, way over-priced, etc. etc.
The Better Half is using the stuff (extra-mortgage material, I tell you!), and she claims it’s a company strategy.
The bottles in the picture (and that’s the shape of most of the bottles in this product line, regardless the brand) have a concave shape. That means -for the less cosmetically intelligent people among you- that the shape of the bottle goes inwards. There’s this funny little brush with which you smear on the stuff. The brush is about half a cm shorter than the bottle, so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the bottle. And logically, it won’t reach into the corners either, also not in the upper corners, especially not when the bottle is shaped as it is.
This results in a left-over residue in the bottle which equals almost 1/3rd of the bottle.

It might be a strategy, according to the Better Half, to get people to buy a new product faster, but seriously… does it really work like that?
A stupid little bottle like that costs close to 15€. You use 2/3rd of the bottle and then you just buy a new bottle for 15€?
Suppose the manufacturers of this stuff make the bottles convex instead of concave, and the bottle half the price (with people using EVERYthing in the bottle and not throwing away 1/3rd of it, that should be doable), then everyone would empty it and things would be a lot better, for manufacturer, for environment and for buyer…

Cosmetics

D700, ISO200, 4 sec @ f/11, Tamron 90mm macro

A while back I wrote a few posts about scam sites popping up all the time all around.
Yesterday I got a mail from a mate (he probably doesn’t even know he sent it, I’m gonna have to let him know still) saying he bought some stuff from a website called elesales.com. I tell you now to beware and do not approach. Don’t touch even with a stick! If you feel like you want to go have a look, do just that: only have a look.
And, before everyone runs there to check it out, let me emphasize that alarm bells should start ringing instantly if you see the following, on ANY website:

1) a page redirect upon load
2) super low prices, up to 80% cheaper than your regular retail prices
3) payment options only by money transfer or Western Union (DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING!!!!)
4) a Chinese store with a web page completely in (faulty) English (only, and not in Chinese) and currency in €
And for the more advanced among you:
5) they claim to be around since many years and the web domain is registered just a few months or even just a few days ago.

This elesales is your typical example of a scam site, just like the Alihashop and Admreshop I wrote about in the other posts.
Prices are way way down (€1380 for a Nikon D3?? Yeah, right!).
The store is said to be Chinese (with 50 staffs :D ) and one of the first e-commerce stores in China (Yeah, Right!!) and in business since 2008 (one of the first, eh?). The domain elesales.com is registered on December 6th 2010, the redirect vigorg.com was registered on June 7th 2010. Website’s only in English, default currency is in Euros (but you can actually change that, wow!).
Payment is only via bank transfer or Western Union. They say they accept PayPal, but conveniently, that’s only for VIP customers, which I can assure you, is very hard to become and not as they say by just contacting them. So DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING!!!!

Once again: if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
Better pay a bit more and be assured you get your stuff than paying a lot less and not getting anything.

Beware, always!

Wow, a milestone day… Day 100 and spending it with the Better Half. How nice is that? :)
Wouldn’t want to deprive you, my readers, from a post on this remarkable day, though!
And of course (even a tad bit late) use this opportunity to wish everyone an excellent Christmas and a healthy, successful, prosperous and humorous 2011!

Now…
Those gloomy days of Christmas… Too little light (even candles), a blizzard raging outside (already for 2 days) and a good book.

Merry Christmas!

D700, ISO1600, 1/250 @ f/4.8, Nikkor 50mm

I’ve been a good boy, proven by the fact that I got my share of presents from Santa, but I also bought myself a Christmas present, which was delivered right in time on Friday afternoon.
A limited, First Edition of Stephen King’s Secretary of Dreams Volume 2 with artwork by Glenn Chadbourne. Had to wait for it for almost 2 years, but it was worth it. Very appropriate on these dark, cold days. It took me a whole of 1,5 days to read the 260 pages. I think I’m going to have to read it again. And again. And again ;)

Secretary of Dreams, Volume Two

D700, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/3.3, Nikkor 50mm, on-camera flash