Sony Hack

Bottom Line Up Top

I don’t have any idea on who it was who hacked Sony.  In this vein I believe I am in line with nearly every other person on the planet.  To date we’ve gotten all the ‘proof’ that the North Koreans were involved with this that we did on Saddam Hussein’s ‘WMDs’.  About the only thing missing is Donald Rumsfeld going on television to tell us the exact location of the hacked server in question…”It’s located just North, South, East and West of…..”.

History of Sony Hacks

From where I sit I have a very clear memory of Sony Playstation network getting hacked so bad a few years ago it took the entire gaming system offline for weeks.  You’d think a company that had such an event would not be storing company passwords in a file named “passwords”.  FFS.  I’ve read reports that mention Sony being hacked over FIFTY TIMES in the last few years.   Google the issue if you have any questions as to the frequency or number of the hacks perpetrated against Sony.  As a final aside, when did it become the business of the US government to protect the intellectual property of Sony against their own stupidity?  Hmmm?

Other Likely Suspects

The early stories on this hack seemed to indicate that it was a disgruntled Sony hater (former employee?) responsible for this hack.  That seemed to make sense at the time, but the more I see the North Korean angle getting boosted by the (uncritical) press, the more it has me thinking that it is much more likely that the CIA is at the root of this Sony hack.  After all, they are under extreme scrutiny for their perpetration of war crimes.  They have shown the ability and propensity for hacking all manner of things, most notable the Senate computers being used by the committee investigating their criminality.  How convenient for the CIA to have a major NORTH KOREAN hack come floating to the fore!!  Attention is thereby shifted away from their illegal and immoral (unconstitutional) activities!  Look for the head of the CIA to be in Congress next week looking for increased funding to combat this new ‘menace’!  I am so not buying into this North Korea bullshit. Are you?


Kit That Can’t Be Killed

Digicam Accumulation

From the old to the new. Canon S110, Samsung D53, Olympus FE-230, Nikon Coolpix S3000, Apple iTouch, Apple iPhone4S, Sony DSC-QX10. Photo taken with Apple iPad mini.

I’ve been sorting through my vast collection of old personal electronic devices  Over the decades I have accumulated a fairly fat pile of abandoned equipment.  Some of it is still functional, though obsolete, because the function of the device has, more or less, been absorbed by the the smartphone universe (what hasn’t?).  I will be focusing this blog entry on the oldest working camera tech that I purchased to support my blogging addiction over the last fifteen or twenty years, my first ‘real’ digital camera, my beloved Canon S110 Digital ELF.

Digital Camera Tech – The Early Years

Sony Floppy Disc .3 MP Digicam

For the record, the first mass marketed consumer digital cameras of the 90’s were large and heavy (The Sony model shown above weighed 1.2 pounds), used floppy discs as storage and sported optical sensors as small as one third of a megapixel (.3 MP) though in fairness, did contain honest 10x optical zoom.  The cost?  Suggested retail was right at $800 and that was a bit out of my purchasing ‘sweet zone’.

The first digital camera I could afford to buy was a .8 megapixel no-name cheapie with all the light sensitivity of a blind man, no zoom, no flash and no LED viewfinder! It had a very limited and fixed internal memory with no slot for a memory card (wasn’t invented yet!).  It was something less than a hundred bucks in it’s day and was passed down to my kids when I finally jumped into my first honest-to-goodness “high quality” digital camera.  I might have gotten all of a half dozen decent pictures out it in the entire time I owned it, such were the vagaries involved in getting all the conditions just right to tickle the fickle optics in that cheap POS.  I hope it has found the way to the dump heap by now.

Canon Digital Elf S110
Canon S110 Glamour Shot

A hero enters my blogging arena.

It was right at the start of the new century, in 2001, when I managed to cough up the funds to buy a Canon Digital ELF S110.  I purchased the display model because at the time, the only retail store I could find that had one, only had the display model left in stock.  I paid $350 for it after getting a $50 markdown for buying the display unit.  I normally refrain from purchasing display electronics, specially things as fiddly and motorized as this camera, but it came with all the accessories and a full warranty, so I went ahead and make the purchase.  This 2.1megapixel model was state of the art back in its day.  It is the oldest camera I still own, and outside the bangs and bruises, and despite having lost the flash card door cover (as well as the lens cover that is suppose to protect the lens when in the off position, this camera still manages to provide images almost as good as when I first bought it.  Here is the camera and some sample pics I took recently to test it.  The only thing I have replaced on this camera is the original battery.  Note that the S110, unlike any digicam I have seen since then, still has a true optical viewfinder to supplement the very tiny led display on the backside of the camera.  The camera came with an 8 meg flash memory card that was sufficient to hold about seven full quality images (1200 x 1600).

Sony QX10 Slide Digitization


The Problem

There are at least a thousand old slides careful stored in drawers all around the house here in Germany.  I’m relatively certain that at least a few must contain interesting and early photos of my wife as a child.  Since Rita lived all over the world in her early childhood travels with her oil engineer father and socialite German mom, there’s likely to be some good slides of those far flung places mixed in as well.  This is the story of how I am going about retrieving those old slides and getting them into a digital format for posterity with the usual Rube Goldberg flair many of you have come to expect from me.  I’m fully aware that there are paid professional services that use dedicated slide to digital conversion scanners.  For those of you not aware, I am a cheap bastard with a penchant for finding a way around giving other people my money for anything I can possibly DIY.  This blog entry is for those with a similar proclivity.

Necessary Equipment

Slide Viewer

At a minimum, you’ll need an old backlit handheld slide viewer and a digital camera with enough pixels and short enough focus to make it possible to get a picture off the front of slide viewer.  If you happen to have an honest to goodness slide projector and screen, by all means use it instead of the small handheld viewer I am currently limited to.  In either case, a tripod for your camera is going to make it a lot easier to keep a consistent distance, focus and steadiness to whatever image you are using as a “master”.

My Gear

My Sony DSC QX10 camera (connected via QX10’s ad-hoc wifi to my iPad mini) is used to collect the photos of the slides as they are taken.  I then dump them off of my iPad onto my Mac Mini for post processing in iPhoto, which involves a quick straightening and cropping for the most part.  You can do any digital enhancement you like after the slides are digitized. I use a mini tripod to provide stability and support for the Sony QX10 as well as positioning for best focal length for macro shots.  Here’s a better overview of the process, and I show the digitization photo.  This slide was not in great shape.  The quality of the final product is, in large part, dependent on the quality of the original slide.  See the sample set at end of this post for a better overview on what to expect.

My Setup

I’m early into this process, having converted less than a hundred slides.  I took the cover off the slide viewer and since the lamp in it was shot, I decided to use an LED flashlight as a backlight for the illuminating the slides.  It’s also a bit easier dealing with the insertion and removal of the individual slides without having the case on.  Once you’re set-up, each slide can be digitized through to the QX10 about every ten seconds or so.  That’s about how long it takes me to physically remove the old slide and insert the next one, so it works out pretty well for the workflow since I’ve got many, many more slides to process.

I keep the QX10 tethered to external power while doing all the digitization so it won’t go dead on me while I am going through a long set of slides.  This assures my QX10 is left in a state of charge where it’s ready to “grab and go” without worrying about the QX10 battery going south on me right outside the door.  I have decided against a strategy of buying extra proprietary batteries for those devices which can otherwise be recharged via lithium battery portable chargers.  They’re now as cheap as the proprietary batteries and can be used on all my USB charged kit.  I’ve currently got two 3000ma ports-chargers in my kit bag.

Samples of Digitized Slides

Sony DSC QX10 – First Month Review

Romantic Sunset in Holland

Good day to all my friends and frenemies alike!  I’m taking a minute here to update the situation in regard to my feelings on the most expensive bit of electronics I’ve added to my collection in the last sixty days.  It was just under a month ago that I finally got my Sony DSC-QX10 for “Christmas” and I now have a fair amount of use under my belt since my earlier initial review here.  I’m happy to say that my initial positive impressions have held out over the longer haul, but that said, there are a couple quirky things I would like to point out regarding ownership of this excellent bit of cutting edge camera technology.

Minor Perturbations

Since my earlier review, I have had time to play with the movie functionality of the lens a little bit more.  I mounted it to the top of my moped helmet as a kind of poor man’s GoPro yesterday in hopes of documenting my first moped ride of the new year. My past moped videos have been taken with my iPhone, and lacked both a proper mount or any video stabilization.  I could hardly contain my excitement at the prospect of testing this new Sony cam movie setting if for no other reason that the added video stabilization feature!!  Upon arrival at my first destination, Aldi’s, I found the Sony PlayMemories app had gone haywire somewhere along the route of my initial filming of the trip to Aldi’s.  I was forced to physically shut off the Sony lens power to make sure I had ended the video.  The red recording light on the Sony was ON at the time of my forced shutdown.  I encountered a similar problem later in my travails as I attempted to document the ride from our horse stable to another local grocery store near my house.

Expounding upon the Issue

Rube Goldberg would be proud

I found I had a real problem when I got home and tried to import the video files off the microSD card.  Videos do not stream back to the iPhone via the ad hoc wifi connection like photos can be made to do, nor can they be offloaded via USB cable from the camera itself.  You must use a card reader to transfer captured video off the QX10 to move it to another device.  I found both my memory card readers unable to make heads or tails (or even recognize that the memory card was inserted) when trying to import them into iPhoto on my Mac Mini using the full size SD card adapter that came with my micro SD card.

Ridiculously Small IMHO

This tiny memory card is absolutely necessary for the Sony Cam to record video and is not included with the purchase of the Sony camera (Shame on you Sony!!).  By using the full size SD card adapter that came with the 16G micro SD card, I have been able to transfer files, both video and stills, with no issues in the past month.  I figured I had buggered the micro SD card somehow when the PlayMemories app went haywire on the moped ride video.

The Solution

Apple SD Card Reader for iDevices

I had to make a choice on whether to buy and test a new micro sd card for twenty euro or spend twenty nine euro and get the “SD card reader to lightning connector” accessory for my iPad Mini.  It is something I was planning on adding to my blogging bugout bag anyway, so I figured I might as well go ahead an make the investment and see what happened when I placed that ‘buggered” micro sd card into the full size adapter and plugged it into my iPad.  Bottom line.  It worked flawlessly, and I was able to import and clear the card through the iPhoto interface on my iPad.  Look forward to an upcoming moped ride video coming to my social stream any time now!

Here’s a sampling of the photos I’ve taken with the QX10.  These are downsized a bit for my website.  Most, if not all of them are available in full size on my Flickr account, the link to which is accessible (as are all my social media links) on the SOCIAL tab on this website.


Sony QX10 First Day Impressions

Happy Days Are Here Again

Sony DSC - QX10 Cybershot

I received my Sony Cybershot DSC-QX10 camera in the mail yesterday afternoon.  I was immediately intrigued by this innovative Sony camera when I first heard about it early in 2013.  Don’t get me wrong, nothing (i.e. nothing, AND my current iPhone) will ever replace the delicious sweetness of the release of the Sony TPS-L2 Walkman back in 1979, at the dawn of the “rare Earth” era in tech development.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, even as I slowly approach middle-age, I get an echo of the tingle in my nether regions for this new camera the same as the original Sony Walkman used to inspire in my succulent youth.

Another Something New

QX10 riding shotgun

Sony has engineered this camera to ride “piggy back” (literally and figuratively) on your existing smartphone. By utilizing the existing screen of your phone as a viewfinder, and the phone itself as the camera ‘body’, Sony has pioneered an entirely new concept in portable consumer photography. It should be noted that when connected with iPhone via the App, there’s no requirement that the lens be attached (mounting bracket included) to your phone.

Creative Possibilites

I know there will be crowded situations where I’ll want to raise the lens over my head with one hand to get a clear shot and it’ll be nice having the camera control and framing views on my iPhone in my other hand.  You can easily set the camera on any flat surface since the otherwise cylindrical QX10 has a flat spot on the bottom, where a tripod mount is also provided as an optional method of off-phone mounting.

Sony Does the all the Driving

The manual control options on a QX10 are sparse. Consider you’re locked down to fully auto mode unless the software is upgraded to allow more flexibility to the QX10 in the future.  Sony does allow a bit more manual control via the PlayMemories app on the upscale model QX100 (and could probably offer same on QX10 through a simple app upgrade if they desired).  On the other hand, all the extra bells, lights, buzzes and whistles translate to more hassle and less simplicity of use.  If you enjoy fiddling about with a lot of manual controls, but are in love with this new camera’s form factor, even the fancier QX100 is going to be harsh your mellow in that regard.

Welcome to Tomorrow via Yesterday

When Sony pioneered the Walkman, the earliest version(s) lacked a lot of the features available on the later models, but at the end of the day, if you wanted to be the first to own one, you were forced to make some compromises (no Dolby noise reduction, auto-reverse or solenoid controls, e.g.).  And just like the original Sony Walkman, which many of you probably remember as a runaway instant success, Sony had to finesse and grow that market before it eventually exploded so widely you could buy an off-brand Walkman clone at Kmart for twenty bucks.  They were so plentiful and cheap by the end of the Walkman era, you’d see them hanging in the checkout lines of grocery stores as impulse purchases, right along with the disposable single-use film cameras of the pre digicam era.  I would not be the least bit surprised to see the same kind of product life cycle run it’s course again.  There’s still room for improvement, and the built-in camera on smartphones has come a long way.  You can decide for yourself from the comparative shots between my iPhone4S and the Sony QX10.

Commando Mode

The camera can be used without the phone involved at all, if it’s holding an optional memory card to store pix and video. The lens has physical zoom, power and shutter buttons but you’d be shooting completely blind with no framing reference without involving your iPhone in the process.  You would then transfer the photos from the lens directly to your PC via USB cable, just as is required for video retrieval if you lack a separate card reader.

Jumping Right In

Note: All the unboxing photos in this gallery were taken with my iPhone 4S camera.

Non Spontaneous Foreplay

Sony PlayMemories App

First thing I did after breaking the seal on the QX10 box (kudos to Sony Marketing on the studly packaging) was download the Sony PlayMemories App (free) off iTunes onto my iPhone4S. I knew it was necessary andI would have already installed it earlier, but it isn’t good for anything other than controlling and communicating with the Sony QX10 (and QX100) cameras, so it wouldn’t have been doing anything but taking up space on my phone and mocking me every time I glanced at the icon on my phone while impatiently awaiting the arrival of its material mate to arrive via post.  Plus, there’s no waiting in line at the app store and it’s always open.  The app downloaded in the background while I took the unboxing photos shown above with the iPhone4S built-in camera.

The App’s Not Crap

If you read any of the reviews about the PlayMemories App you know what a horrible buggy piece of garbage it must have been before the recent (and desperately needed) Sony upgrade.  I am happy to report that my initial experience with the app on my iPhone4S has been quite pleasant.  In switching back and forth between the iPhone internal camera and the Sony QX10 to take the comparative shots below, the app was quick to re-establish connection with the external lens. The camera and iPhone set up their own ad-hoc wifi network so you don’t have to be on a local wifi network or shared router.  It seems like a no brainer, but I’ve seen a lot of people ask about that in other reviews.  It’s not a spontaneous connection, nor as smooth an experience in operation as a wholly separate pocket-sized point and shoot of similar cost, but it seems wise to take all those rather dated (in internet time), negative app reviews with a grain of salt, as the software performed up to my expectations.  I would imagine the faster processor ratings of the newer iPhones would be even better, but that is not something I have the hardware to test.  I’m hoping to ride my iPhone4S until the release of the iPhone12 if providence sees fit.

Time Is On Your Side

I used to say, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it but then Apple dropped iOS7 on us and for me at least, once I got over the demise of my beloved skeuomorphs, iOS7 has been terrific.  Expect to see further refinements in the Sony PlayMemories App if you purchase a QX10, or it’s hellishly expensive snobby upscale sibling, the QX100 ($500ish).  Sony has already announced more app improvements are on the way.  I love how you buy electronic devices nowadays and they keep adding features via software, making them better than they were when you first got them.

A Softspot for the Hardware

The one thing that reviewers were nearly unanimous in lauding, even as many muttered obscenities under their breathe as they struggled with the early beta versions of that buggy app?  The camera itself.  There’s a lot of praise for the of optics and picture quality of this camera/lens and I concur.  The QX10 is basically the rejiggered guts out of one of Sony’s more successful point and shoot pocket cams, which adds some historical provenance to the QX10.  The ten power true optical zoom and low light capabilities of this camera put my iPhone to shame, which is good, since there is no way to use the iPhone camera flash with the Sony lens and it doesn’t have one built into itself.  If I want a crappy flashed-tout look to my photos, the iPhone has it, but I dislike flash enough to abstain from it altogether.  Bottom line is that you can’t approach the picture quality the QX10 offers with your iPhone because, physics. I suspect the early negative app reviews led to the discounted price I paid for this camera, 144 euro ($196 USD), down from the original price of $250 USD, though I’ve still seen it being listed on many US websites at $250, give or take a buck.  Waiting for the app to be overhauled resulted in me getting a much better discount on this innovative camera than I did when I jumped in on day one and dropped full retail ($200) on the aforementioned Sony Walkman (I’d have paid more!).  It’s good to remember that way back in 1979, a dollar was still worth something.  Around sixty seven cents if memory serves me correctly.

Ready Aim Fire

With the app installed and the camera and phone WiFi synced, it was finally time to test out the fancy smazz optical zoom.  Here’s a set of three pictures taken from the skylight window in my living room. The sky is overcast limiting illumination somewhat, but I was impressed at the results.

It’s important to note that the three sample zoom pix posted, as well as all other QX10 sample shots through to the end of this review are taken in the LOWER of the two options provided in the PlayMemories app.  I have not even explored the larger file output option.  Most of the pictures I take are for web posting or social media posting and I don’t want or need a huge file size for a minor improvement in quality.  Since the files are being transferred one at a time via wifi from the camera to the iPhone after each shot, it’ll also slow down your shooting since you have to pause between each photo to allow it to transfer back to the iPhone. Once it’s on your phone (QX10 saves to your regular camera roll!) you are then able to move pictures freely onto the social media site or cloud storage service of your choice quickly and easily via your usual photo sharing apps.  I believe the PlayMemories app has some sharing functions built in, just like every other camera app seems to be including these days, but I have not tested those yet.

Test Shots and Iphone Comparison Shots