Elon Musk

spacex-spaceport-drone-ship-name

I’m going to go ahead and say it. When it comes to my heroes, Elon Musk kicks Steve Job’s ass1.

Spaceships > Portable music players
Electric cars > Smartphones
High speed travel > Super thin computers
Having a sense of humor > Being kind of a dick


  1. No, it doesn’t really make sense to compare them, but I’m doing it anyway. 

I hate selling stuff

I change my mind about gear quite often. This means I end up with things that I no longer need. What I should do when that happens is sell those things.

I hate selling stuff. It’s not that I don’t want to part with things, it’s that the process of selling is typically awful.

For example, I recently decided to sell all of my Canon gear. It’s all high-quality photo equipment and I priced things fairly and was generous in my descriptions. It’s been a complete pain, usually due to one or more of the following.

  1. People don’t show up when they say they will for local sales. Drives me nuts.
  2. People offer about 50% of the asking price, “In cash!”. As if they’re doing me a favor and that I’d accept anything other than cash.
  3. People ask all sorts of detailed and questions about the equipment. Not specific questions about the specimen I’m selling, but about the class of equipment. “Are Canons good for shooting sports?”
  4. People in other countries. Nothing against my foreign friends, but shipping overseas can be troublesome.

So I’ve changed my mind. I’m keeping the Canons and the Nikons for now until I calm down.

The Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Scanner

I’ve always hated scanning color 35mm film. It’s fiddly to work with and no matter what I’ve tried the color is always off. Then I met the Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner.

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Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner

I started to see mentions of this scanner on various forums recently. Seemed too good to be true. The claims were that it could scan an entire, uncut roll of color 35mm film, with Digital Ice, in 5 minutes. That, and the color were supposed to be basically nailed right out of the box. Originally, the F-135 Plus sold for $8000 (in 2007-ish). Word was I could get one on eBay for around $300. I was sold! I won an eBay bid for $330. The risk was that the units were listed “As-Is” with no returns allowed. A week later the scanner arrived and I got to work.

The scanner requires its own proprietary software and only works with Windows XP. I read that some folks were doing this successfully on Macs via Parallels. After a couple botched install attempts I got everything working and scanned some test strips. The maximum resolution of the scans is 3000×2000. That’s fine for proofing and small prints, so I wasn’t worried about it.

Whoa! It’s so fast! And they were right, the colors looked as good as I’ve ever been able to manage. I have no idea how I didn’t know about the F-135 before. It completely changes the game for me when it comes to scanning 35mm film. No more fiddling around trying to get things flat and lined up in the V750’s flimsy holders. No more swearing at Vuescan or Silverfast and manually setting scan settings and cropping. No more hours wasted trying to get colors to look even close to realistic. I love this thing.

It turns out that I’m not the only one. There was a run on them happening. The same company that sold me mine for $330 was selling the same units just 2 weeks later for over $800. As-is for $800! The reason I know this is that mine fried itself the night I got it and I was out my $330. I loved it so much that I wanted a replacement immediately. Not so easy.

I finally found a dealer who had actually taken over servicing the Pakons for Kodak. He had 56 refurbished units a month ago and was down to 4 when I called, so I paid $950 on the spot and the replacement arrived today. It works perfectly and is very clean. The consensus is that hundreds of them became available when CVS shut down their film labs and one company was setting prices at around $300. And they ran out. That pricing wasn’t sustainable, and now everyone is scrambling. Prices are over $1000 today and climbing.

That seems crazy but if you’d shown me one before I’d seen the “old” price and told me it cost $1000 I’d have happily paid that amount. Painful timing, but it makes me excited about shooting color film again. And I’ve only scanned one roll. The image below is from my Olympus Stylus Epic (Portra 400) right out of the scanner and shows Steve looking almost as happy about finding some KBS at Founders as I did about finding the Pakon F-135.

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Steve with KBS (Porta 400 self-processed. Scanned using Pakon F-135)

Movie Club Transfers

When my grandfather left me the entire Grand Rapids Amateur Movie Club library I promised I would work to preserve them and some day transfer them to digital. As you can see, there are quite a few films, in both 8, Super 8, and 16mm formats.

Cabinet containing most of the GRAMC films
Cabinet containing most of the GRAMC films

A few years ago I made my first attempt at transferring them using movie mode on a digital camera pointing at a projection screen. This worked in that it created a digital version of the films but the quality was of course terrible.

I then tried a local company which did conversions. The quality was somewhat better but it took them too long and the cost was too high. I could send them out to something like ScanCafe which does a great job. The trouble with that is I don’t believe they return the films on the original spools, which is a requirement. They are cheaper, but transferring everything would still be expensive. Besides, I kind of want to handle everything myself. These films are important to me.

While researching Telecine options I ran into the Retro-8 frame-by-frame scanner from MovieStuff. I’ve decided that this is the way to go. I have a unit ordered and should have it in 60 days or so.

Retro-8 by MovieStuff
Retro-8 by MovieStuff

The plan is to get everything transferred and resell the unit. The problem with that plan is that if it works well I won’t want to sell it, even when all of my films have been transferred. I will probably want to transfer films for other folks who are in the same situation as me. Preservation of family and other histories is important and this is something that could help. Yes, I’m rationalizing a purchase, but my intentions are good!

Selling the Canons

Canon gear for sale
Canon gear for sale

Eighteen months ago I asked myself if I should Keep the Nikons or the Canons. Turns out that I’ve kept most of both. Time to decide, so I’m unloading all the Canon gear.

This wasn’t an easy decision, mostly due to the EOS-1v, which I love. The 1D Mark III is also terrific, and would be perfect for any “serious” work I might do. Trouble is, I don’t do any serious work. I just snap pictures, and the Fuji X-T1 is totally capable of handling anything I might want to shoot digitally. Finally, a decision!

Here’s what’s for sale:

  • Canon 1d Mark III $750
  • Canon EOS 1v 35mm Camera $350
  • Canon Canon EF 24-105 mm F/4 L IS USM Lens: $700
  • Canon 50mm 1.8D: $100
  • Canon 50mm EF 1.4 II: $100 (autofocus not working)
  • Canon Speedlight 580EX II $250

jack@baty.net if you’re interested in any of it.

Some of the Terminal Apps I’ve been using

I’ve been all-in on the command line for a while now. I basically live in a
complex set of tmux panes. If you’re interested in doing the same, here’s a
list of the apps I use regularly.

  • tmux – tmux is a terminal multiplexer. Ties everything together.
  • Mutt – There’s no better way to handle email
  • Vim – The perfect text editor
  • VimWiki – I’ve fallen in love with vimwiki.
  • jrnl – The Command Line Journal.
    Writes to either plain text files or to Day One.
  • WeeChat – IRC client. I find it easier to use than
    irssi.
  • doing – Brett Terpstra’s simple
    app for recording what I’m doing. I use this for time tracking.
  • turses – Curses-based Twitter client.
    This is new to me and I’m not sure how often I’ll use it but it’s the best
    one I’ve found.
  • Remind – A ridiculously
    flexible calendar/reminder app.
  • Wyrd – Nice front end to Remind.
  • Taskwarrior – Manages lots of tasks without getting
    in the way.
  • Vit – Makes Taskwarrior feel like
    Vim.

Hobonichi Again In 2015

I got my first Hobonichi Planner in 2013 and it quickly became a favorite. I’ve carried one with me ever since, and I plan to continue doing so in 2015.

Hobonichi notebooks
Hobonichi notebooks

I use mine mostly as a calendar and appointment book. Yes, the iPhone is better at those things but what fun would that be? I also like to draw quick sketches representing the day’s events. I try to do this every day but realistically it only happens a couple times a week.

A typical page from my planner
A typical page from my planner

I find the Hobonichi Planner to be the perfect size. It’s small enough to carry, but large enough to work with. The killer feature is the Tomoe River paper. The paper is very thin yet never bleeds through. Using such thin paper keeps the notebook compact, even though it contains 450 pages.

I love it.

My Hugo Experiment

I promised myself I’d never switch blogging tools again1. Then yesterday I ran
across Hugo.

I’ve tried static blogs before using Tinderbox, Octopress, Second Crack,
Blosxom, etc. They all work, some more easily than others, but they all took
too much effort and could be a dependency nightmare. Here’s why I’m trying Hugo
and finding it so encouraging:

  1. Speed. Octopress/Jekyll took around 7 minutes to render my blog. That
    was always a deterrent to publishing.
  2. No dependencies. Hugo is written using Go and comes as
    a single binary with no dependencies. A breath of fresh air compared to the
    spiderweb of ruby gems and versions required by Jekyll/Octopress.
  3. Live Reload. Hugo comes with a mini web server built in and renders the
    site locally each time any content or template is changed and reloads the
    browser instantly. This shortens the feedback loop so much that it feels
    like I’m editing the static files directly.

Speaking of speed…

baty.net hugo
0 draft content
0 future content
1875 pages created
96 tags created
3 categories created
in 579 ms

Rendering speed is no longer an issue.
The good news is that I don’t think I broke anything critical this time.
There’s still a lot of theme cleanup I’d like to do yet.

Converting from WordPress was surprisingly easy. I used a plugin by Cyrill Schumacher and had all of my 1800+ posts, images, etc. converted for use with Hugo in less than an hour. All links were preserved so I don’t need to create a bunch of rewrite rules in Apache like every other time I’ve done this. Every step was easier than expected so I just kept going!

UPDATE February 03, 2015: I think Hugo may be the best static site generating CMS available. That said, I’ve gone back to WordPress for baty.net. Mostly because I’m lazy.

 


  1. I am a liar 

Grand Rapids Amateur Movie Club’s “One Day” contests

My grandfather, Richard Baty, was part of the Grand Rapids Amateur Movie Club for many years. He used to tell stories of the club’s “One Day” competitions, during which they would split into teams and each team had one day to plan, shoot, and edit a short film. This would be easy today using an iPhone and iMovie, but in the 1950s it was way more work.

Here’s a home video of my grandpa creating titles for one of his films:

See what I mean?

I recently found some photos taken during the filming of one of these One Day competitions: “Dune Dreams” shot during the summer of 1953. Looks like they were having fun.

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Richard Baty directs “Dune Dreams” (1953, photographer unknown)

 

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The cast of “Dune Dreams” (Richard Baty, 1953)

 

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George Bates as the Life Guard in “Dune Dreams” (Richard Baty, 1953)

 

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George Bates as the Old Man in “Dune Dreams” (Richard Baty, 1953)

 

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“…aaaand ACTION!” Richard Baty directs “Dune Dreams” (1953, photographer unknown)

I still have all of the original GRAMC films. One day I plan to digitize them.