After all of the eye procedures I’ve had over the past 13 years I truly appreciate the gift of sight, and I’m using that as my excuse for justifying the purchase of a new, formerly state-of-the-art video projector. It was discontinued three years ago, and I’d decided then that it was exactly what I wanted, because it doesn’t have motion smoothing or 3-D, two features that I have no interest in, that were added in later models.
I came up with an impossibly low price that I’d be willing to pay for the projector — 75% off. “It’ll never happen,” I said to myself. For many months I kept watch on Amazon, with the assumption that the projector would disappear without the price falling low enough to tempt me. Well, it didn’t disappear, and then a month ago the impossible price became reality. I bought one of two available units, and the other one sold two days later.
What makes this particular projector worthy of special consideration is that it can, after a firmware update, be calibrated to have a nearly perfect HDTV picture. Obtaining that performance requires more than the update, however. Specialized equipment and software are needed, along with a lot of know-how, and patience, and hours of tweaking and testing. This video from c|net explains something about the process of TV calibration.
Deciding on which consumer-grade color meter to get took a long time. The choice was between the Datacolor Spyder 4, and the X-Rite i1Display Pro. The Spyder 4 is a colorimeter and the i1Display is a spectrophotometer. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages, and I decided on the Spyder 4.
Past Spyder models were notorious for inconsistent quality control, so I used Datacolor’s software to automatically create monitor profiles on the computers at home to confirm that I’d gotten a good meter. The adjusted computer screens were consistent and they all “looked right.”
So I took the next step and downloaded a free calibration program called HCFR (Home Cinema France). I didn’t buy Datacolor’s HDTV test software because it doesn’t check for anything beyond the most basic controls (brightness, contrast, color, tint). The test patterns I needed for HCFR were also free and they came from the web site AVS (Audio Video Science). It’s actually a Blu-ray disc that I burned onto a DVD. Blu-ray on DVD doesn’t work on all Blu-ray players, but it does on mine. Using a portable Targus tripod I bought for five bucks a few years ago, I mounted the Spyder in front of the projector screen and plugged its USB connector into the Acer netbook.
Spyder 4 colorimeter and Audio/Video Science HD test patterns
The procedure I followed is Greyscale and Colour Calibration for Dummies, by Curt Palme. The instructions aren’t perfect, but I figured it all out, and after hours of going through the learning curve, and many practice runs, I finally achieved a proper calibration on the projector. Cyan was a particularly difficult color to adjust, and after getting everything else right I devoted almost an entire evening just to getting cyan nailed down.
The end result is shown in this chart, with the dotted lines intersecting as closely as possible to the X/Y “perfection point,” while keeping the white triangle from skewing very much off of the black triangle. The results when watching TV instead of test patterns are truly impressive!
Color calibration for HDTV standard Rec 709
Now the question is, what’s to become of the Panasonic projector I bought in 2007? I’d like to use it outdoors at night this summer, assuming the bugs aren’t biting too much this year.
I was a spectator at the starting line of the Boston Marathon this morning. Within the last hour there have been at least two explosions at the finish line, one of which blew up the Marathon Sports store. At least six injuries are being reported by WBZ, and now there are reports of deaths.
My venerable and beloved Acer Aspire netbook (my Sony 32XBR100 TV is likewise venerable and beloved) with Windows XP is now four years old. With Acer announcing that it would no longer make netbooks, and with a tablet not being right for what I need, and with Windows XP fading into the sunset over the next year, and Windows 8 having such an awful user interface, I went looking for a new netbook with these specs:
Windows 7 64-bit
4 GB memory
$300 or less
The particular CPU and the size of the drive didn’t matter to me so much. The problem was finding Windows 7. There were 64-bit Acer netbooks with 4 gig and a 11.6″ screen for under $300, but they had Windows 8. Just as I have never had Vista on a Windows system at home, I shall never have a Windows 8 system at home.
So I looked and I looked, and I waited and waited, and found nothing. I feared the cupboard was bare, and I was beginning to regret my bottom-feeding ways, when a curious pre-order listing appeared on Amazon for this item:
It was a curious pre-order offer because it was for a discontinued model. At the moment the listing says “Only 18 left in stock.” Anyway, I ordered one and I’m using it now. It was manufactured back in June, so it took a couple of hours to get caught up on all of the Windows updates. There are some quirks that I’ll have to get used to, but the overall performance is so much better than the old 9″ Acer Aspire that I’d say it’s more like a small laptop without an optical drive. This is, I assume, the last of the Windows 7 netbooks, and I’m glad I was able to snag one.
With Google Reader going away, I decided to not delay looking for an alternative. Live Mail and Thunderbird are both options at home, but I don’t want an installed app for an RSS reader, I want a Web browser interface. The automatic importation of Reader links by installing a Chrome extension made feedly my top choice. It failed a couple of times due to connection resets that, I assumed, were caused by feedly’s servers being overrun with new users, as confirmed later by feedly. Once I had it working, some of the first tech site items I read indicated that feedly has an early lead as the #1 Google Reader replacement.
(This is something that I sent in an e-mail, and it wasn’t intended to be a blog post, but I’ll use it to fill some space here.)
I first read about what would become the Internet around Thanksgiving, 1972, when I was a senior in high school. It was in a Rolling Stone magazine article by Stewart Brand, called Spacewar! Brand created the Whole Earth Catalog, having previously lobbied NASA to take a photo of the entire Earth:
If you look at that link, below Brand’s name you will see the name of Dick Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse pointing system. Engelbart had been funded by a government bureaucrat named Robert Taylor, who jumped over from NASA to ARPA, at the Department of Defense.
At ARPA, Taylor was behind the development of the ARPANET, the first computer network. After Taylor left, the ARPANET became the foundation for the Internet. Taylor had left ARPA to start a new group at Xerox, called the Palo Alto Research Center. And that was where Taylor was when I read about him and his work, in Brand’s article from 1972. This is the article, in which Brand talks about hackers on the Net, as well as predicting online digital music sharing, and the end of print newspapers:
I still have my original copy of the magazine, purchased when I was seventeen. One inescapable theme of the article is that computer gaming cannot be separated from what was going on forty years ago, nor from everything that has happened since then. I am not myself a gamer, but I cannot help but think back to Spacewar! when my son is playing games over the Internet with his Xbox 360, against opponents all over the world.
Xerox PARC’s innovations — GUI screens, e-mail, Ethernet, and laser printers — were the inspiration that motivated Steve Jobs to create the Macintosh computer. Like Jobs, Bob Taylor wasn’t an engineer, per se, and he wasn’t a development programmer, as such. He was a brilliant manager of technology, combining great vision with practical insight and organizational skills.
And with that bit of background, here is, to my mind, the single most important person in the history of post-war technology who is not a household name. This link will jump almost 45 minutes into the video. You should at least listen to Bob’s joke, and maybe you’ll like him enough to watch some more.
The best place to start watching the entire video, if you are so inclined, is at this point:
Google is discontinuing its RSS Reader app. This really ticks me off. I use Google Reader at work to scan through a lot of tech sites. RSS is simply the best way to do this, and now I have to look for another reader. Speaking as someone who first accessed the Internet from home in February, 1994 with a 14.4 Kbps modem, this is annoying.