The Jay

We have a pair of Blue Jays that pop by now and again. Canadians tend to be pretty fond of these birds, at least the baseball fans among us. Two World Series’ and all that 🙂

I think these are all the same bird, and he (or she, but for simplicity I’ll say he) popped by several times while I was in the back yard, with the Panasonic G85 and Leica 100-400 handy, so I got some decent images. He seemed to prefer shadows, though, so there is plenty of soft grain in these. Still, I like them a lot. He even eats some worms at one point for our benefit 🙂

Birds Just Wanna Have Fun

Is this recreation, or procreation?

These two are this years’ occupants of my next-door neighbour’s bathroom vent. I thought that the baby making had already occurred, but their filghts were mostly laden with straw for the nest in the pipe.

So we can expect the pitter patter of little claws soon …

Rogers Gigabit Service Comes Through

I’ve been using Rogers’ Ignite for wuite come time, and have been generally pleased with it. But I’ve been unimpressed by the speeds since I switched to Gigabit service last year. At the time, I had to move out of my basement office while we got new wiring and walls and such, so I went from wired to WiFi. I was still getting decent speeds, but nothing like Gigabit is capable of.

For 18 months I have had deadlines that roll over me unrelentingly, so I finally decided that the bedroom was no longer working for me and moved back downstairs today, despite the basement reno not being quite complete yet.

This has allowed me to get off of WiFi and back onto a wired connection.

And what a difference!

Gigabit Ignite Comes Through

Stockholm

I was fortunate enough to work at IBM for 15 years, most of which were pretty great. I had this strange period at about the 10 year mark where I was working with a major telecomunications company in Sweden and got to travel there four times.

The second trip was in autumn 2012 (the first being April of the same year) and I distinctly remember arriving to a storm of orange leaves. What a beautiful sight.

I’m also a huge fan of Gamla Stan (Old Town, a thousand year old Viking settlement in one of the central islands of the archipelago).

It’s pretty big, and on the same island you will find the royal palace. I visited that on another trip.

Just thought I’d share since many of us are effectively shut ins right now. Kudos to those still going to work to keep the lights on and other things running.

Rogers Ignite TV

Well, it does look like my blogging will be as sporadic as it became on the old Nothing Special blog. Alas, I work a lot of hours for my company, and there are many distractions right now (ongoing), so ’nuff said.

Back to the topic: I finally decided I had had enough of overpaying for my cable and cell phone services (it is an axiom in Canada that you will overpay when compared to rest of world, but overpaying against other Canadian services is just a mistake that needs correcting). So I investigated Bell and a number of the lighter weight (and cheaper) services.

Bell continues to offer maximum speeds in my neighbourhood of 150Mbps, which frankly is completely underwhelming, especially when they still call this “Fibe” lol.

TechSavvy and others look decent, but again they do not reach the heights of speed and convenience of Rogers.

So I took a closer look at Rogers and started comparing levels of service in both their Digital TV (think: old stuff) and their new Ignite TV, which is a combined streaming service with YouTube and Netflix access and search.

Price-wise, they are rather similar. You can do a little better on either setup depending on the channels you desire. But Ignite wins on convenience by a long margin, so I looked closer at that. Of course, the bundles make it essentially insane to buy the lower tiers, since higher tiers are pretty small increments. (I know, one man’s small increment is another man’s irritating difference).

So I ended up where I expected to end up — 3 cell lines with infinite data, which means that when you run out of data you still get a drip of data speed for light weight surfing. It’s 512kbps, which is faster than the ISDN lines I was on in the 90s, so don’t complain lol. I took Ignite Gigabit speed internet and their populr level Ignite TV.

They send technicians to your house to assess the signal they can get at the tiny Ignite boxes (everything is now recorded in the cloud, so these are the size of little Android boxes, which is basically what they are). These guys were very professional and got the remotes working with the TVs. The downstairs remote also handles the receiver’s volume, so I no longer need the other remotes, they exists only for backup. Way cool.

We had some trouble with the signal to the upstairs TV because it is at the opposite corner of the house about 60 feet away from the corner of the basement where the cable modem / router is located, but I use an access point in the middle of the house to ensure that every room has excellent wifi at 2.4 or 5g. All three networks have different names, so you just set them all up and your device typically choose the one it likes.

What we did with the upstairs Ignite TV box was to put it on the 5g access point network, which is very fast. My old Macbook Pro (2012) can see about 280Mbps over wifi, so no problem there. Of course, the TV works perfectly. The livingroom Ignite box sits right beside that router and could be using a direct connectiong, but the guy set it up talking to the basement router and it works perfectly as well. No dropouts, no snow, just clean signal. I’m still gonna switch to a cat7 cable though 🙂

So finally … how fast is the internet? I have a blog article on the other blog where I document my trials and tribulations with Rogers over several years, but overall I was happy with the speed back then … around 320 to 330 Mbps on the 250u plan and then the same on the 500u plan when they forced me to move up or down. On the latter plan, I got around 500Mbps now and again, although it was by no means consistent.

On this gigabit plan, I consistently get around 500Mbps, which is the limit I can get with the cat5e wiring I have in the basement. I plan on replacing the wiring with cat7 for obvious reasons. That can carry the full bandwidth throughout the house, and it can handle more TVs, should that ever come to pass.

Edit: I tried connecting the box directly using cat7 and it looked a little funny. Turns out that the Ignite boxes connect over ethernet at 100Mbps, which is lower than they can achieve with wifi. So leave them on wifi if you can.

Bottom line … I have to say that, if you are not shopping strictly on budget, this service is worth checking out. I am pleased.

 

Get a huge improvement in speed for your email and image editing

I use Outlook 2016 and Lightroom Classic CC for my email and image editing (duh :-)), and I’ve noticed that my main computer has become fairly slow at both.

Times for opening email are not bad … perhaps 6s, but times to do any significant searching etc are horrendous. This no doubt accrues from the presence of email going back to about 1997 🙂

Lightroom is not much better. Things bog down pretty badly and opening and backing up the catalog is not quick. I’ve had cases recently where the whole catalog had to be recreated owing to some sort of corruption. I’ve had that with email too. It can be frustrating.

So I decided to move the Lightroom Catalog and the email files (main and archive) to a new SSD, which I dubbed “FastData” to distinguish it from “Data”, my older 2GB drive, which I kept for all the sundry things that are not used often. It makes perfectly good storage for that purpose. I back both up to my 6TB external NAS grade USB drive, a Seagate Ironwolf Pro as mentioned in an earlier post.

I chose the Crucial MX500, an excellent 3D Nand SSD that competes quite well with the outright leader in consumer grade SSDs, Samsung. In an earlier post I showed how fast my Samsung boot SSD is, and this new drive is actually faster by about 30MB/s on most operations. This is not quite as dramatic as it might seem because the doubling of size from 250 to 500 makes a difference in performance because of the presence of a second bank of flash memory, which I think can be used to optimize access somewhat. Also, the new drive is empty, which helps a bit, even with SSDs.

This is the drive’s performance to compare with my previous article on the new chip running this computer:

l_speed_4790

That’s quick. Again, this is an old computer, so no newfangled NVMe drives for me :-), which means this is as good as it gets.

The difference in the applications is well worth the small expense (SSDs are officially cheap now, with several 250GB drives under 50 bucks cad). Email opens in under 2s and everything is fast in the interface. Lightroom appears in 1 or 2 seconds, but still takes almost 10s to be ready. The catalog is breathtakingly large as it holds over 140 thousand images. But things happen *really* fast once you are in. Previews take no time for example, which I really like. I deleted the entire previews folder (about 10GB and 50k+ files), and you would never know it.

Copying the data and switching the apps was simple, and I recommend anyone considering doing this watch a few YouTube videos on the subject. I am very pleased and should have done this years ago.

Can a Faster Processor make your SSD Faster?

Yes. Apparently.

Apologies for the one or two of you who have been following this new blog of mine. My work hours have spiked for a new project and I find that I don’t even keep up with photography during these brutal spurts of activity, much less blogging.

Anyway … I made an interesting discovery this evening (it’s actually the wee hours of the morning, but who’s counting?)

Some years ago, I inherited my son’s Intel 4670 core i5 when he upgraded his system to something better. He’s a gamer and I’m not, so this chip has been quite sufficient for a long time. But I have always secretly wanted to grab the core i7 4790 Devil’s Canyon chip, which continues to have a place in the top 50 or 60 chips of all time (according to Notebook Check’s mobile benchmark site, which I really like). The K chip is even better (by quite a bit), but is extremely expensive used. I got the locked version for much less on eBay.

I had a lot of trouble getting it running, having installed it 4 times over two evenings, the second pair after getting a new power supply (which had been on my upgrade list for a while anyway owing to the number of hard drives in my system).

The vendor actually refunded my money at one point, but also kept helping me with it and finally suggested I check my BIOS, and sure enough that was the issue. I was running the original F4 level BIOS on my Gigabyte board, and F12 was the one that introduced support for these newer chips. I upgraded to the latest — F15 — and it works!

So now to my discovery … I had tested all my drives when I installed my new images disk as a replacement for my older 3TB Seagate Barracuda desktop drive, which was almost full. The new drive is a fantastic NAS drive from Seagate, a 6TB IronWolf Pro. It turns out to be much faster than its predecessor, as shown here.

The 3TB was not bad for speed:

q_speed

But the newer drive is about 18% faster, which is nothing to sneeze at when you consider that this is a high performance and extremely durable drive designed to run 24/7, unlike desktop drives. I chose this drive as an attempt to ensure that my images would never be lost through a disk crash. I also back these up to an off board USB drive, also 6TB but a desktop drive.

p_speed

And by the way, when I moved an identical drive on to a SATA 2 slot from its normal SATA 3 slot (to make room for the new NAS drive), I was surprised to see it take a big hit in performance. The SATA 2 specs should be adequate to run these drives at full speed, but apparently not.

z_speed

That’s a huge drop in read speeds, so beware of motherboards that use a mix of SATA 3 and SATA 2 ports to save money. I got caught by that, but my main drives are all on SATA 3 ports, so I’m not too twisted over it.

But I digress …

I had tested my Samsung 250GB 850 EVO before I got this new processor. It works as well as ever, which is shockingly fast (for a basic SATA 3 SSD, no fancy PCIE interfaces etc.)

c_speed

You can see here that it is very fast, which is why these things make machines feel new all over again. I recommend an SSD upgrade for everyone using a laptop that feels a bit slow (as they pretty much all do, especially when booting).

But what caught me by surprise was the speed boost I got from changing only the processor. Nothing else is different.

c_speed_4790

It’s not enormous, but it’s surprisingly high. The random read and write is especially nice, and may very well be noticeable.

I just thought I’d pass this along. Used CPUs are available for many platforms, and SSD prices are very low these days. If you have a desktop or laptop with socketed i5 and a mechanical hard drive, you just might want to consider this dual upgrade. The difference can be pretty impressive, especially if you do anything demanding.

In addition to trying to fix some issues I’ve been having lately, I did it to avoid spending any real money on Ryzen technology at this time. I expect that I can get years out of this rig now that it is state of the art (for spring 2014 LOL), and that gives these new Zen 3 chips time to get cheap.

Cherry Trees

I love Cherry Trees. The spring blossoms are the nicest moment in a summer filled with nice moments for flower lovers. Photographing them is always fun and a bit challenging, since they tend to come in unruly clusters.

This spring seems to have everything arriving late, and this is true of the Cherry blossoms as well. I finally noticed some trees in bloom yesterday and thought that I could finally walk around and shoot the various trees in the neighbourhood.

So I was shocked this morning when I peeked out the bathroom window to check on the birds (they are rarely outside these days) and saw branches full of cherry blossoms in my own side yard!

I kid you not. This blew me away. The short story is that I have allowed my backyard to literally go to seed, with many trees of all sorts finding their way to may yard, presumably through the time honoured method, which is why I call them my bird shit trees.

p.s. If that last sentence offends you, then you really should not be on social media.

This tree has finally reached near to 20 feet and so it is now able to bloom. Wow …

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Sweet Maggie home for a visit …

A nice little get together at my place last night with sweet Maggie, my eldest son’s Pug (technically, she belongs to both boys, but things played out a bit differently from that). Maggie had her nails done and her annual appointment and was pronounced surprisingly fit for an almost 10 year old Pug. She climbs three flights of stairs 2 or 3 times every day, which puts her well above the average human in fitness 🙂

I shot an image with the boys and her. Not the best image I have, but it is what it is …

This was lit by a pair of slave flashes in a fairly dark room. They were set about 4 feet from the boys and Maggie and bounced on the ceiling. The G85 had the 35-100 2.8 on it shot at about f4 IIRC.

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And just so you get to see this beautiful Pug in all her glory, this is a decent shot of her:

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A narrow band of sharpness …

Micro 4/3 (m43) sensors are about a quarter the size of full frame sensors. Yet the average 24mp full frame sensor has only 50% more pixels than the 16mp variety of m43 sensors and only 20% more than the newer 20mp variety.

What this means is that the pixels in an m43 sensor are *tiny* … and that means that they are more prone to diffraction effects where the circle of confusion (maximum size of a dot resolved on the sensor at a specific aperture size) exceeds the size of the actual pixels. This can be explored in this excellent article: https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/diffraction-photography.htm

There is a calculator for diffraction limitation against sensor size, resolution (in the calculator’s advanced mode), and aperture. What I found was that f/8 is where the Panasonic 100-400 lens starts seeing diffraction effects, which is detectable as a lowering of contrast / slight increase in blur. Very slight, but noticeable as it turns out.

Image result for panasonic 100-400 lens images

I shot some examples of images at 800mm effective on the 100-400 from about 100 feet. The target was a tall vent on a neighbour’s roof with a white label with writing on it. The writing cannot be resolved at 200mm effective, but at 800 it is crystal clear. At least, at some apertures.

I shot four images, all hand held. This lens works with the IBIS of the G85 to give a huge number of stops (>5) of stabilization, and I was nowhere near the limits, so these should all be extremely sharp.

But first, I will show you an image shot with the GX85 and 12-35 2.8 … I shot at 25mm, which is 50mm effective. So this is what we consider “normal” perspective. The label I shoot for sharpness is on the tall vent on the far left side of the roof. You can see the white rectangle there.

_1060624_DMC-GX85_LUMIX G VARIO 12-35-F2.8II

The first is shot at f6.3 (wide open) and cropped tightly such that the actual image is slightly greater than 1:1 reproduction.

_1080755_DMC-G85_LEICA DG 100-400-F4.0-6.3

This image is already pretty sharp. If I had to quibble, I’d say that a bit finer edges to the text would be nice. Which brings us to the image shot at 7.1 — widely regarded as the sweet spot for this lens.

_1080756_DMC-G85_LEICA DG 100-400-F4.0-6.3

And our wish is granted. There is just a hair better cleanliness to the edges and I think that this is about as sharp as you could get at this focal length and distance.

Moving to f8 and then f9 …

_1080757_DMC-G85_LEICA DG 100-400-F4.0-6.3_1080758_DMC-G85_LEICA DG 100-400-F4.0-6.3

I get the sense that the f8 image suffered a tiny bit of shake, putting the lie to my assertion that they should all be sharp. But do note that the text is generally readable. The main issue is a slight increase in blur / loss of contrast.

And that gets worse in the final image, but the shake is gone and the text is crisp. Without the contrast, though, it looks like a film has been pulled over the image. And that is exactly what the linked article describes as the effects you will see. That loss of contrast comes from the wider spread of light (as in diffusion) at ever narrower apertures.

So I can confirm that images shot at f7.1 are the shizzle with this lens …