NIK Software… wow!

 Photography  Comments Off on NIK Software… wow!
Mar 082011

I was checking out local photography courses here in Denver the other night and I came across a curiously named one-day seminar called the “NIK Workshop.” I had no idea what NIK was so I clicked the link.

It quickly became apparent that NIK was some sort of software used for retouching digital photos. When I looked at the before and after samples on the page I was completely blown away. I’ve been engaged in digital photography and workflow for over 10 years and I had never heard of NIK, yet here was a product that was performing miracles in color, lighting effects, sharpening, converting to black and white, and all the other stuff that I’ve struggled with in Photoshop for all these years.

Completely intrigued, I went to the NIK Software website and downloaded a trial copy of Viveza 2, an extremely versatile tool that makes it easy to adjust lighting, exposure, contrast, detail (they call it “structure”) and much more in all or part of your image. What’s more, Viveza seamlessly folds your adjustments across the image so that even if you make a local change in one corner, the rest of the image still looks right.

Within 30 minutes I had my own pair of before and after photos, a recent sunset shot I took in Bora Bora. Last week I spent over an hour futzing with levels, curves, saturation, etc. in Photoshop CS5 on this very same image, but was never quite happy with the result. After only 10 minutes in Viveza 2, I created the masterpiece I was looking for. Check it out:

Sunset - Before

Sunset - Before

Sunset - After

Sunset - After

Pretty stunning! And all this with no selections, layers, layer masks, or any of that other nonsense that makes Photoshop powerful… but a pain.

Here’s a portraiture example. The first image is OK but not really very flattering or interesting. The background is blown out and the subject is slightly underexposed… looks like a typical, mediocre, amateur backlit portrait:

Portrait - Before

Portrait - Before

Here’s the same image after 5 minutes with Viveza 2. Now we’re talking! The background no longer looks washed out… I was able to recover a decent amount of detail and color in the water. At the same time, I brightened the model’s skin tones to make her almost glow against the background. It almost looks like I was using fill flash and umbrellas. Much better!

Portrait - After

Portrait - After

I can’t believe that in all these years I’ve never heard of NIK software or their products. I purchased the full suite and it has completely revolutionized my workflow and re-energized my creativity when retouching photos. I find it especially useful for salvaging poorly-lit or uninteresting portraits, but it’s great for landscapes and other subjects as well. It works like magic, the way I always wanted Photoshop to work. Highly recommended.

Time-Lapse Photography

 Photography  Comments Off on Time-Lapse Photography
Mar 062011

Been experimenting with time-lapse photography lately. I use my DSLR along with the Giga T Pro intervalometer to do the trick. Here’s one of my first efforts, 12 hours looking out my guest bedroom window, compressed to 20 seconds. Took one shot every 15 seconds, 2880 total, yielding a nice, smooth result:

1998 Mooney Encore Panel Upgrade, Part 3

 Flying  Comments Off on 1998 Mooney Encore Panel Upgrade, Part 3
Jul 092010

Today is a big day… everything’s installed and we’re firing it up for the first time!

Here is a shot of the full panel:

Here’s a closeup of the primary instruments:

Here is a closeup of the Garmin G500:

And here’s a closeup of the PS Engineering PMA8000B-T audio panel (above the GNS 530) and the JPI EDM930:

Here’s a closeup of the JPI EDM930:

We successfully beamed music from my iPhone to the intercom via Bluetooth… very cool! Now I can toss my 1/8″ stereo cord that was always getting caught in the seat rails.

All that’s left now are final inspections, putting all the loose pieces back together, re-weighing and balancing the aircraft, and final testing and calibration of G500. Hoping to have it all done by July 16th!

1998 Mooney Encore Panel Upgrade, Part 2

 Flying  Comments Off on 1998 Mooney Encore Panel Upgrade, Part 2
Jun 182010

We’re one month into the project now and the plane is completely torn up. But we’ve hit bottom and now everything is being put back together again. Estimated completion is somewhere around mid-July.

The Mooney Encore instrument panel comes in 4 sections, in order from left to right as you look at the panel: Primary Instruments, Radios, Accessories and Circuit Breakers. For this upgrade, the Primary Instruments and Accessories sections are being completely replaced. The Circuit Breakers section is being modified (I’ll have 19 fewer breakers than before) and the Radios section remains the same, except for swapping out the audio panel in place.

Here is a picture of the old Primary Instruments section that has been removed:

Here is a picture showing the new Primary Instruments section, which has already been installed:

Much cleaner! The Garmin G500 goes into the large rectangular cutout. To the left, from top to bottom, will be the backup indicators for airspeed, attitude, and localizer/glideslope. The backup altimeter is to the right. These backup instruments are required by the FAA in case the G500 takes the day off.

Notice the slugs that have been installed into the Circuit Breakers section… it used to be that every location had a breaker. Less is more in terms of aircraft reliability, so this is an excellent development.

This shot shows the G500 unit installed, along with the attitude indicator to the left. The airspeed indicator had to be sent out to Mooney to have a new face put on – turns out the airspeed arcs on the factory unit were wrong and for 10 years I’ve been flying with the low end of my white arc (stall speed) indicating 5 knots below where it should be. Good thing I don’t ever fly slow.

Notice that the row of engine instruments that used to appear across the top of the Primary Instruments section is gone… they are all moving to the JPI EDM 930, which is being installed in the Accessories section. Here’s the Accessories section of the panel, which isn’t installed yet:

On top is the controller for the TKS de-icing system. The EDM 930 is the large square LCD screen. It will depict all engine instruments graphically, and will also serve as a replacement fuel flow monitor for the Shadin unit I had removed.

This photo shows the G500 demo unit and my Accessories panel section on the test bench. These two units are replacing about 90% of the crap that used to clutter my panel. Awesome!

This image shows how the “brains” for the units above are installed in the tailcone of my ship:

And here’s a shot that illustrates just how torn up my aircraft is right now. A bit unnerving!

I expect the pace to pick up a bit from here on in so hopefully there will be many more updates to come.

1998 Mooney Encore Panel Upgrade, Part 1

 Flying  Comments Off on 1998 Mooney Encore Panel Upgrade, Part 1
Jun 152010

I’ve owned my 1998 Encore for 10 years now and have decided it’s time to trade its late ’90’s instrument panel for something more 21st century. I’m going to trade my 6 primary instruments for a Garmin G500 with Synthetic Vision technology, my engine instruments for a JPI EDM 930, and my crummy old King audio panel for a far superior PS Engineering PMA8000B.

For this project I chose Arapahoe Aero at Centennial Airport to do the work. Scott Utz and his team have been doing a fabulous job on my annual inspections for the past four years and it just so happens they’re an excellent avionics shop as well. And I really like the fact they’re located about 50 yards from my hangar.

Here’s a photo of the aircraft:

Here’s what the panel looked like before starting the retrofit:

Here’s the tangle of wires revealed by removing the panel. Wow!

And here’s a mockup of the new panel:

At the same time, my plane received its annual inspection and we decided to perform a top overhaul on the cylinders (total time: 1150 hours). Here’s what the engine looks like with the cylinders removed:

All this work started in April and probably won’t be completed until July. I’ll post updated photos as they become available.

Installing Java 1.6.0_20 and Resin Pro 4.0.7 on Centos 5.5

 IT  Comments Off on Installing Java 1.6.0_20 and Resin Pro 4.0.7 on Centos 5.5
Jun 072010

Perform all installations logged in as root.

This link contains excellent instructions for installing Java 1.6.0_20 on Centos 5.5.

After installing Java, add the following to /etc/profile:

export JAVA_HOME="/usr/java/jdk1.6.0_20"

Although Centos is typically configured with OpenSSL, you need the development version to compile it into Resin. So the next step is to execute this command:

yum install openssl-devel

Next, change the permissions on /etc/rc.d/init.d so that the root group can create and delete files.

Next, this link from the Caucho website explains how to configure, make and build Resin Pro 4.0.7. However, during the configuration step, change the conf location to /usr/local/resin/conf.

Grant create files and read/write access to /usr/local/resin/conf for the account under which Resin will run. This allows the admin app to generate the user and password file for the admin app.

Next, copy the license file (if you have one for Resin Pro) into /usr/local/resin/licenses.

Open resin.xml and change the default webapp locations to directories in /var/www/. Grant full access to these directories and the WEB-INF directories inside them to the account under which Resin will run.

Log off as root. Log in as the user under which resin will run.

Open a terminal window and execute the following:

cd /usr/local/resin/bin/./ console

Resin should start normally as shown below:

You can test the installation by pointing Firefox to localhost:8080, where you should see the default Resin page with links to docs and admin.

Point your browser to http://localhost:8080/resin-admin and create a username and password for the admin app. Follow the instructions to rename the generated admin-user.xml file gets generated in /usr/local/resin/conf.

1. Hook Apache and Resin together. Apache will be the front-end web server.
2. Install certificates and configure Apache for SSL.
3. Create <database> entry in resin.xml.
4. Create SMTP entry in resin.xml.
5. Get SmartCompany to work.
6. Get Resin to start automatically at boot time.